Too many years ago, I published an article about the history of Harry’s Bar Venice, one of the most iconic landmarks in Italy. I told my story through the eyes of Ruggero Caumo, who had worked at Harry’s for more than four decades, most of them as head barman. Ruggero was a charming and lovely man whom I met one day while he was mixing my martini. I interviewed him on his day off while he was getting a haircut. We spoke mostly in Italian, at his request. As he felt more comfortable, we switched to English. He had not yet retired from Harry’s and he was in an expansive mood. I was delighted. After the original article was published, Ruggero wrote me saying that many tourists had visited Harry’s Bar all summer long with clipped-out copies of the article asking him to autograph it. Naturally, he obliged. I hope you enjoy his story:
“This is a place where everybody in the world stops once in his life,” says Ruggero Caumo, head barman of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy — the world’s most famous watering hole.
Ruggero ought to know. He has been tending bar there since 1946.
“I don’t need to go away to see the world,” he says. “The world passes through here.”
No one can argue with him. No trip to Venice is complete without a visit to Harry’s Bar, the always-crowded-to-capacity original from which all others are pale imitations.
From his vantage point, behind the tiny, intimate bar, Ruggero has spent the last several decades watching the human parade pass through. And what a parade.
He has mixed thousands of drinks for Harry’s legendary clientele – writers, film stars, tycoons, royalty, and assorted bon vivants—a list headed by novelist Ernest Hemingway, the man who put Harry’s Bar on the map.