If you are a coffee connoisseur, you’ll feel right at home in Italy. This is where you’ll find good coffee almost anywhere. From the tiny bar in the middle of nowhere to the rest stops on the super highways, the barristas in Italy know how to brew a good cup of espresso.
The barristas here are fast, efficient and talented. At 8 a.m. on any weekday, a small neighborhood bar can fill up quickly with anxious coffee drinkers, starting their work day. Somehow, the Italian barrista will get the orders filled and still have time to comment on the weather or the most recent news while brewing coffee and refilling the tiny dishwasher.
Don’t expect to order anything too different—it’s un caffè, which is an espresso, un caffè doppio, which is a double espresso, un caffè Americano, which is like American coffee or a few other choices such as a cappuccino or macchiato. Don’t worry—you can get decaffeinated varieties and even soy milk in most bars.
When you stay in a town for a few days, select your favorite coffee bar and be sure to return the next day. On your second visit to a neighborhood bar, most barristas already have your order memorized. If you avoid the rush hour, you may even have some time to chat and receive some helpful advice. If you stay in the same town for a week or longer, the coffee bar soon feels like home.
In the big cities, near the busy tourist sights, the prices for coffee vary, depending on whether you stand at the bar or choose a seat (there’s a service charge to sit down). While in Rome, be sure to visit Tazza d’Oro, near the Pantheon for a true coffee experience. You place your order at the register and squeeze into a spot at the counter where you place your receipt. Then enjoy watching the skilled coffee artisans in action while you wait for some of the best espresso in town.
But if you venture into the outer neighborhoods or stay in a smaller town, it’s a bit more mellow and the prices are lower. You don’t have to pay ahead of time and they invite you to sit at a table with no extra service charge.
When you travel to Italy, don’t expect to find coffee to go in a paper cup. That’s just not part of the coffee culture there. You join the lively action inside the bar, receive your coffee in a ceramic cup with a saucer and take some time to slow down and savor your drink—even if you’re standing at the bar. Just another reason (among 29 more) that I keep returning to the Bel Paese.