Italy loves its coffee. The nation knocks back an impressive 14 billion shots of espresso every year, with some of the world’s most famous roasts coming from this flavourful nation. Even the act of drinking coffee has its own set of implied social rules.
From authentic drink-and-go espresso bars to leisurely cappuccinos with a view, there are lots of fabulous coffee houses to explore. So when you’re in need of a quick pick-me-up during your Italian travels, here are some of the best spots to stop and enjoy a coffee.
Bianca Ohannessian is a travel and fashion writer and social media specialist. When she’s not writing for various websites and for her own travel blog, Rockskippers, she’s out exploring the globe.
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A Quick Fix
In Italy, a quick espresso is usually enjoyed standing up at the bar. Luckily, if you’re taking a road trip around Italy, you’ll never be too far away from your next espresso stop. You’ll find these traditional-style coffee bars on virtually every street corner. Here are a few favourites.
Bar Rosati, Rome
When in Rome, do as the Romans do and start your day with a coffee. As well as Bar Rosati’s smooth, full-flavoured shots of espresso, this quintessentially Italian coffee bar has a warm and inviting atmosphere. You’ll feel like a local as you stand at the traditional dark wood and marble bar knocking back a swift espresso. Located in the beautiful Piazza del Popolo, and a stone’s throw away from the Basilica Parrocchiale Santa Maria del Popolo, the café has wonderful views of the square with tables outside making it a great spot for people-watching if you prefer to sit and sip.
Antico Caffè Spinnato, Palermo
You’ll find plenty of excellent coffee bars in Sicily’s colourful capital, Palermo. Among them is Caffè Spinnato, which has been serving up their strong Arabica blend of espresso for nearly 150 years. In summer, you can get your caffeine fix in frozen form too; a refreshing coffee granitas mix espresso, with crushed ice. Piano music, outdoor seating and an impressive selection of ice cream adds to the appeal of this traditional Italian coffee point.
Emporio Armani Caffè, Milan
For a taste of modern Italian style, you can head to the Armani flagship store which has its own coffee shop on the ground floor. The glossy black interior exudes contemporary glamour. With lots of cultural attractions nearby, such as the Italian art collections in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, the surrounding streets are lined with luxury label shops. Among other designer cafés and restaurants in the fashion capital, such as the Wes Anderson-designed Bar Luce by Prada, the Emporio Armani Caffè offers a chic sanctuary to take five after a day of shopping.
To Be Savoured Slowly
If a relaxed cappuccino with a view is more your style, Italy has no shortage of cafés located right by some of the country’s most celebrated landmarks. Whichever cities your Italian adventures take you to, you’ll be sure to find a coffee-flavoured taste of the dolce vita there.
Caffè Florian, Venice
First stop is Venice’s elegant Caffè Florian, which beautifully combines the old and new in a luxurious space that’s been brewing coffee since 1720. Situated in Piazza San Marco, alongside the must-see San Marco Basilica and Palazzo Ducale, the café is an attraction in itself. The sumptuous surroundings of its many rooms, like the Liberty Room, are filled with history in the form of plush neo-baroque furnishings, intricate gold-leaf adornments and art that dates back centuries. Collections by contemporary artists are also on display. There is even a house orchestra to add to the tastefully extravagant atmosphere. Over the years, Caffè Florian has welcomed a glittering clientele to its tables, including Ernest Hemmingway, Andy Warhol and Giacomo Casanova.
Antico Caffè Greco, Rome
Another of Europe’s oldest coffee shops, founded in 1760, Caffè Greco features high ceilings, marble-topped tables, bronze sculptures and gold-framed paintings – giving the grand space a luxurious Belle époque feel. The location is just as fabulous, right in front of the Spanish Steps. It’s a great place to take a break from Rome’s extensive sight-seeing opportunities or to rest your feet after browsing the nearby boutiques and designer shops along Via dei Condotti.
Gran Caffè Gambrinus, Naples
Short, strong shots of espresso have been served at Caffè Gambrinus, to the likes of literary legends such as Oscar Wilde, since 1860. Its elegant interior is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Or you can look out onto Piazza Plebiscito if you opt for an outdoor seat, with the magnificent 17th century Royal Palace of Naples in front of you. Then go for a wander around the palace, exploring its opulent throne room and court theatre. But before you go, don’t forget to try the café’s signature drink, the Caffè Gambrinus, which is an espresso shot generously topped with foam, whipped cream, cocoa powder and chocolate sprinkles.
Devour with a spoon
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll find coffee delights on the dessert menu too. Rich and smooth espresso shots have been reinvented into a variety of sweet treats which you can seek out in villages, towns and cities from top to toe of Italy’s boot-shaped form on the map.
Bar Pompi, Rome
Bar Pompi may look like a typical Italian coffee bar, but it has a special attraction; its excellent tiramisu. The walls are lined with variations of this rich and creamy coffee and mascarpone-based dessert, in all flavours and sizes. They even do limited edition versions, such as piña colada flavour, during the summer. Their classic tiramisu, however, is always a winner. It’s well worth venturing a little way outside of the historic centre for.
Just like coffee, gelato is also an Italian obsession. So you know the combination of coffee and ice cream will be nothing short of magnificent. You’re never far away from a scoop of the cold stuff thanks to the fantastic array of gelaterias up and down the country. Bologna’s Gelatauro is considered to be one of Europe’s tastiest gourmet ice cream shops and uses organic, fairly traded ingredients. Pop in for coffee bliss in an ice cream cone or tuck into a coffee slushie with whipped cream and a spoon as you stroll around Bologna.
As well as a mouth-watering assortment of seasonal flavours, this lovely ice cream shop also serves other delicious desserts including affogato. It’s an Italian favourite that sees a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream. This caffeinated concoction is usually an after-dinner treat and can be found in most Italian restaurants. However, if you just want to skip straight to the sweet course, Vivoli, Florence’s oldest gelateria, is the answer. The shop is also just down the road from Piazza Santa Croce. The delightful square is watched over by a grand Neo-gothic basilica which houses art gems including sculptures by Donatello and 13th century frescos by Giotto.