Great to read this article. As a confessed coffee Nazi, I also long for Italian coffee. Having lived in France for 9 years, until moving to NorCal 7 months ago, it amazed me how French gastronomy was stunning, but the coffee has all the charm of the security guard checking your bona fides at the entryway to a nuclear waste facility… while it hails.
Yet cross the South-Eastern border, and enter coffee heaven! In [maybe] 300 visits to around that many cafés throughout Northern Italy (from Rome, and North thereof), across 12 visits, I found two poor coffees. Two! One just behind St.Mark’s square in Venice, and a second in a greasy spoon, three blocks back from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.
Italians just nail coffee. Their coffee culture is all about that brief window into local culture enjoyed with a hit of bitter-syrup bliss. Italians don’t sit around spending hours in cafés. They greet the barista, order their hit, collect it after greeting all 5 others in the café and then knock back their hit before bidding ‘Ciao’ on the way back from urban paradise.
They do this. Ritually. All through the day. Everywhere.
European culture dictates that prices for any service correlated directly with the tourism appeal of the location. In other words, that typically .90c espresso, could still be as low as .50c in the backstreets of a café in an unknown village and would likely be 6 Euros on St.Marks square. I’ve never considered my hard-earned worth spending on coffee at Italian tourist sites, so I don’t know for sure. But I can tell you that one of the worst coffees I ever had was a cappuccino ordered at a café on the Champs-Elysée [I had to eat there, but probably should have trusted my instincts on the coffee]. It cost 6 Euros… Three years ago… And it was undrinkable!
Luckily, I didn’t have to pay for it :-)
I was trained as a barista in Perth, Australia, in the early 1990s. I worked in this role for the better part of a decade, as coffee culture took over the country. When I was a kid, instant coffee was the norm. Now, coffee in Australia is highly regarded by most (Italians probably don’t). I want to get relive that era…
So, now I’m looking forward to checking out that authentic café on my next trip to the city. Thanks for the tip!