Beyond Pompeii: Off-the-Beaten-Path Family-friendly Attractions in Naples and the Amalfi Coast
March 14, 2014
Our founder, Shannon Kenny discusses eating and Italy with Savoring Italy!
September 10, 2014
Uno Minuto with Shannon Kenny - The Italian Coffee Drinking Experience
February 3, 2015
Among so many wonderful aspects of food and Italian culture is the infamous coffee one finds in Italy. In fact, coffee was first introduced to Europe by way of Venice via trade routes with Arab merchants who sold it at exorbitant prices to wealthy noblemen. The invigorating drink was initially perceived with suspicion due to its ties to the Islamic religion, until it was decreed an official Christian beverage by Pope Clement VIII, and ecco qua, the Italian coffee bar was born in the 17th century.
Italy has since established its reputation as the destination for drinking the most premium coffee, tied to a particular roasting process that produces high quality, rich espresso. Yet this coffee experience, although always delicious, is quite different from how Americans drink coffee. To highlight some of the most important differences:
Italians don’t drink excessively large cups of coffee. In the morning, they will drink a cappuccino, consisting of one shot of espresso with a bit of frothy milk. If you would prefer more coffee in your cappuccino, you can order a doppio, for “double shot” of espresso, but your coffee cup will still be the same size…
Italians do not take their coffee to go, they enjoy it at the coffee bar, standing up at the bar and chatting with the neighbors, or on the weekends perhaps taking a seat at the table. The café is an essential feature of Italian everyday life, a lively and welcoming social arena.
Coffee is typically less expensive in Italy, costing between 1.50-2 euros, or perhaps more if you are at a nicer café and choose to take a seat at a table, in which case you may pay a coperto for your table service.
Italians typically do not take milk in their coffee after lunch as they do not consider this healthful. The milk in their coffee in the morning cappuccino is considered as part of their breakfast nutritionally, consumed with a pastry. After lunch or dinner you will likely only be offered a small perfectly brewed espresso with the option to add sugar.
One of my favorite coffee bars in Italy is Il Caffé Sant’Eustachio in Rome, in the small Piazzetta di Sant’Eustachio near the Pantheon. The coffee here is among the most famous in Italy because of their process of roasting the beans. For this reason, I like to buy a can of their house roasted coffee as a special gift to bring home to friends and family in the U.S. As a side note, the pizza by the slice joint just across the piazza from the café, Pizza Zazà, is amazing and really inexpensive… You can have some pizza and then walk over to Sant’Eustachio for an espresso?!
My amica Molly McIlwrath of the LetteArteMente blog, an expert guide to Florence and surroundings, artfully characterizes the Italian coffee bar as a place in Italy that has an “unmistakable rhythm. The juggling act of the baristi making caffes, macchiati, cappuccini (not too hot, just a little froth, lungo, corto...) while people squeeze in for space, read a few pages of the news or chat, along with the mandatory "Grazie!", "Ciao!", "Arrivederci" exchanges flying through the air as patrons leave. It's all fast but these are the moments that can linger with you througout the day."
So live like a local, and linger in the coffee bar as an important part of your Italian cultural experience!