Episode 6: Davide Campari

The subject of Episode 6 is Davide Campari, the man responsible for making Campari the company and famous Italian spirit it is today. The episode also focuses on Milano, the aperitivo and the art of cocktail.

Below I have provided additional content to help you dive deeper into Episode 6 and help with your "homework" assigned at the end of the episode!


Gaspare Campari opened his first shop in Milan in 1867, moving the company from his hometown of Novara to the newly opened Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a high-end shopping mall that the citizens of Milan dedicated in the same year to the king who led the process of Italian unification. A few weeks after the inauguration of the Galleria, at the presence of Victor Emmanuel II himself, Davide, the fourth son of Gaspare, was born in the house on top of the store.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is a covered passage connecting Piazza Duomo and Piazza della Scala (where the opera theatre is located)

The Campari store had an immense success and, over the years, it became a gathering point for the city’s elites. Its clients included the composers Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, the librettist Giuseppe Giacosa, the conductor Arturo Toscanini, the writer Emilio Praga, the illustrator Marcello Dudovich, the entrepreneur Giovanni Battista Pirelli, and even the son of Victor Emmanuel II, King Umberto I.

The Bar designed by Eugenio Quarti for the Camparino store

In 1915, Gaspare’s son Davide opened a “younger brother” of the store, the Camparino (located at the entrance of the Galleria in Piazza Duomo), which would become the flagship store of the company and a jewel of art deco. Its interior was furnished by two world-renowned artists (both awarded prizes at the Universal Exposition of Paris in 1900): the cabinet-maker Eugenio Quarti and the iron decorator Alessandro Mazzucotelli.

Iron chandellier designed by Alessandro Mazzucotelli for the Camparino store


Davide Campari transformed the company from a successful business to a pioneering promoter of the arts and advertising firm. Top Italian artists, designers and illustrators worked for Campari, including Marcello Dudovich, Leonetto Cappiello, Marcello Nizzoli, and Fortunato Depero.

Some of the Campari posters and objects are immortal pieces in Italian art.

Marcello Dudovich, Poster for Campari (1901)

In the 1901 ad for Bitter Campari, Marcello Dudovich (a regular customer of the shop and a designer for Ricordi) relates the drink (minimalistically depicted in two glasses at the bottom right) to the melodramatic scene of a kiss. Imitating the operatic mingling of arts (music, text, costumes, acting), he thoughtfully constructs the image as a synesthetic experience, by emphasizing the tactile element (the man touching the woman, the velvety decorations on the pillow, the cloth’s brink under the glasses), by associating the pleasure of taste on the lips to that of a kiss, as well as by transferring the red of the drink onto the overall picture (equally charging it with an atmosphere of sensuality and passion).

In 1921, Leonetto Cappiello designed a renowned poster for Campari, which associated the brand to the image of a joker (spiritello), brightly emerging on a dark background, and playfully handling a bottle of the aperitif while surrounded by a peeled orange skin (in a synesthesia of tactile sensations).

Leonetto Cappiello, Poster for Campari (1921)

In 1926, Marcello Nizzoli (which would later become one of the top designers for Olivetti) designed two parallel posters for Cordial and Bitter Campari, displaying, in the one, a “Cubist” vision of the product, seen from above from the observer’s perspective, and, in the other, the soda seltzer as the company’s quality trademark (from the “Camparino” bar to the rest of the world).

Marcello Nizzoli, Posters for Campari (1926)

Marcello Nizzoli, Posters for Campari (1926)

Fortunato Depero, Squisito al Seltz Campari (1926)

The most fruitful artistic partnership established by Davide Campari was the one with the Futurist artist Fortunato Depero, who transformed the brand into a platform of visual research. Depero realized plastic figures of monkeys drinking Campari (1925) and several compositions of puppets drinking Campari Soda, composed of conic or cylindrical pieces and surrounded by daring chromatic combinations. The conic shape of the puppet’s drink would “overflow” into a plastic complex, inspiring the design of the Campari Soda bottle as a reversed chalice, commissioned in 1932 to launch the product globally. Depero’s bottle is still today one of the most iconic pieces of Italian lifestyle.

Fortunato Depero, The Campari bottle (1932)


If you are interested in knowing more about the Campari heritage and artwork, I highly recommend a visit to the Campari Gallery, located in Sesto San Giovanni (Milan) near the headquarters of the company.

Campari continues to be a leader in communication and advertising, and Davide’s strategy to tie the product to art is still a prominent feature of the company. Campari is a trendsetter in the realm of photography, through its yearly “The Calendar” (featuring the work of first-rate stars and photographers), and in the realm of cinema, through commissions to top-tier directors like Federico Fellini (who directed a Campari commercial in 1984) or Paolo Sorrentino (who directed for Campari the mini-movie Killer in Red in 2017).

Last but not least, if you are of legal drinking age, visit the Camparino or any Campari store to enjoy the experience of a real aperitivo milanese. If you can’t travel to Milan any time soon, here is where you can find recipes for your favorite Campari cocktails. Enjoy this piece of Italian legend!

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 Contact Info:

Luca Cottini

Associate Professor of Italian Studies

Villanova University