We’ve all heard “do as the Romans do” and drinking coffee is without exception. It’s time to ditch the idea of a quick run through the Starbucks drive-thru and abandon your request for a venti half & half, 10 pumps vanilla, extra whip. It’s not happening. Coffee is so ingrained in the Italian culture that it’s tough for foreigners to understand. So here are 5 pro tips to avoid being “that person”.
- First and foremost, when you wander the streets and see “BAR” it’s not what you think. BAR is actually referring to a coffee bar, not a place to go drink alcohol; even though you can get a pre-dinner drink at apertivo time.
- Whatever you do, do not order a cappuccino, caffè latte, latte macchiato, or any milky concoction after 11 a.m., especially after a meal. Italians consider milk a meal in itself, satisfying the need for a complete breakfast. As these beverages tend to have more milk than coffee, and thus more calories, sipping one down after a full meal is nearly unthinkable.
- Avoid asking for an espresso. Instead order un caffè, it’s espresso by default.
- Be prepared to stand at the bar. Sitting down to casually sip your coffee is mostly for tourists. You’ll pay a hefty price, often 20%-50% more to have a table service. Ordering at the bar and carrying it to the table is equally frowned upon. For Italians, a quick stop at the bar is meant to be just that. Quick.
- You pay before or after… it depends. Some bars prefer that you pay the cashier first and then present the receipt to the barista, while others allow you to pay on the way out. Other customers are your best bet for this, watch them and follow suit! Confidence is key! And, if you leave a ten cent tip with your receipt, you’ll be served quicker.
- Last but not least, keep it short and sweet. Specialty coffees in Italy are very scarce. The most adventurous variations you will find are caffè corretto (espresso with a shot of liquor) and caffè con cioccolato (espresso with chocolate).
In Rome it’s easy to spot a coffee bar on nearly every block. But if you want a real taste of the Italian coffee culture along with the best caffès and cappuccinos, be sure to pay a special visit to these 5 bars!
Sciascia Caffè, located in the Prati neighbourhood, is the perfect place to start. Sciascia’s old-fashioned atmosphere is just as memorable as the caffè. The baristas are suave beyond description, posh with white button-ups, black vests, ties, and cuffs. Cozy seating benches line the walls of the bar, instantly making you feel warm and welcome. If your sweet tooth is acting up, Sciascia makes a wonderful espresso with chocolate.
Castroni has several locations throughout Rome. Though you may enter with the intention of getting a quick dose of caffeine, you’ll likely leave with more. Castroni aims to share not only their products, but also news and events related to the world of food. Along with a coffee bar Castroni offers food from regions all over the world: wine and spirits, small gifts, sweets, health supplements, and even groceries. Like all their products, the coffee beans are selected with the greatest care. The espresso is the perfect balance of bold and flavorful, leaving your palate completely satisfied.
Cafffè Camerino, located on Largo Arenula, is a favorite among Romans. Mornings and afternoons are always buzzing with the locals, giving you a genuine taste for an Italian coffee bar. I recommend a morning visit (remember the rules!) because their cappuccino is one of my favorites in Rome. Not too harsh, the baristas pull the perfect ratio of froth to coffee, which is hard to find! Cafffè Camerino is truly a great way to start the day. And, yes, it’s spelled with 3 ‘f’s.
Bar del Cappuccino, not far from Cafffè Camerino on Via Arenula, is run by Mr. Santoro and his family. The shop is small and relaxed, giving it the perfect family charm. The aroma is just as nice! Mr. Santoro is a perfectionist and works extremely hard to keep all of his customers happy. As the name suggests, this little bar is known for its excellent cappuccino. You can be sure that Mr. Santoro will serve you nothing but the best.
Parana Caffè is a dream come true for the coffee connoisseur. A family business, founded by Roger Giannelli, pays special attention to keep taste intact, typical of the artisan culture and the completion of each stage of the roasting and grinding process. Roger isn’t the only expert; even the staff have obtained licenses from the International Institute of Coffee Tasters. Rich in taste, the Espresso Italiano is a true staple of authentic Italian Espresso. To all true lovers of coffee Parana invites you to an “Appointment with the Senses” – a training course aimed to teach and appreciate Italian espresso!