Marco Gialdi’s story moves together with the flow of people entering Mantua from the ‘80s up to now. It is interesting to note how in the past the city filled up with people arriving by train during the weekend. They used to access the city centre via Pradella. In the last 20 years, however, we use the car more, therefore the preferred entry point has become Piazza Sordello in the north. Spotting these details can make all the difference for a shrewd businessman. This ability to observe social phenomena lies at the heart of Marco Gialdi’s success, forever at the helm of the city’s most successful bars.

Trained as a barman, his curiosity took him around Italy and Europe’s biggest Grand Hotels since young age, serving cocktails. This was his training ground, the most important school, where if you listen and observe correctly, you obtain knowledge and a set of skills that nothing can take away. And which drives you to improve, constantly. Obviously, luck helps the daring, and Marco never backs off a challenge.

Spurred on by mum and dad, he agrees to take on the Bar Sociale. It was 1983, years of rampant economy, of the aperitif with large groups – sometimes up to fifty youngsters – with a levity that seems almost lost today. Then, people from the countryside would flood in on Saturday afternoons, and almost certainly stop over at Bar Sociale. It was the first bar on the way to the city centre, but it was also the Bar which would serve crisps with white wine, chocolate with coffee, and take away ice cream cones.

Marco was always a pioneer, thanks in part to the first computers he adopted in the 90’s and navigating the Internet in search of the latest cocktail trends. This slowly superseded Marco’s customers ideas, who brought back news of exotic cocktails from their travels. Speaking of recognition for his customers, Marco thinks back to the time when someone told him you could access a whole buffet during an aperitif at a bar in Bologna, another brought back news of the Mojito, and a third suggested he would like to keep on drinking wine from the Alto Adige region even after coming back from holiday. Marco listens on, soaks up the news and renovates his offer, with his inimitable style.

There are plenty of novelty items around, but wine stays on as a strong tradition in our culture. It really hasn’t had any competition from spirits or beer even though – as Gialdi recalls – there was a time when you ran the risk of being absolutely out of style if you didn’t down a baby whisky as a night cap.

In 1996 he landed a lucky ticket that he couldn’t refuse: managing the bar Sociale together with the bar Venezia. Only thanks to his passion was he able to endure the sacrifices and the pace of work. When his daughter Irene was born (she is a valid help these days) he gave up the Bar Sociale, as the city centre moved inwards.

He reduced the working hours (no more shutting up shop at 2 am) and with his business partner Anna Maria Rollo, who came from catering, starts up a new era made of great attention to quality offerings for wine and gastronomy. It’s been 21 years of research and battles to improve working conditions too. Marco has a vocation to bring up new barmen and a vocation to educate which brought him in contact with students and parents as they strive to launch their campaign to drink responsibly.

Today Marco looks around and is convinced there are better ways to organise the interiors of bar Venezia. With Anna Maria he discussed new strategies, and after acquiring new spaces that can be used up until wintertime, he promises new developments in the tea room. We won’t have to wait long: Marco Cialdi never, ever stops.

by Mara Pasetti

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