Touring Italy’s Historic Cafés

| Thu, 11/29/2018 - 03:00
historic cafés in Italy

Good coffee, historic charm, literary and political heritage: Italy has a multitude of celebrated cafés where to relax while sipping coffee and enjoying a unique ambiance. Discover some of them below. 

Trieste - Occupying a thin strip of land between the Adriatic Sea and the Slovenian border, the city of Trieste has always been a mix of different cultures, with a rich coffee heritage, which can be experienced at its several historic cafés. Caffè Tommaseo, the oldest in the city, opened in 1830, and has preserved the sophisticated and elegant atmosphere of its origins; it’s also famous for being the first to serve gelato, at the beginning of the 20th century. Order ‘un nero’ (as Trieste residents call espresso) at Caffè Pasticceria Pirona, where James Joyce created his most famous work, Ulysses, or sit at Caffè San Marco, a hangout for intellectuals and writers of the caliber of Saba, Svevo and Giotti.

Turin - The city's cafés are just as interesting as the monuments. Caffè Fiorio, open since 1780, was the meeting place of aristocrats and conservatives. It was at Fiorio that the city’s public opinion was being shaped during those years when Turin was actively contributing to the unification of Italy, so much so that King Carlo Alberto used to ask, “What’s being discussed at Fiorio?”. Bicerin, coffee mixed with cream and chocolate, is a specialty of Caffè Fiorio, which is also famous for its artisanal desserts.

Florence – In Florence’s historic heart, Caffè Gilli, opened for 270 years, is the last surviving example of a Époque café in the city. The first shop, in 1733, was in via Calzaiuoli: it then moved to different locations until it permanently settled in Piazza della Repubblica (Via Roma), where it became a literary café frequented by the artists of the time. The spaces and the furniture, perfectly preserved, date from those years. Other two historic cafés, also on Piazza della Repubblica, are Caffè delle Giubbe Rosse, opened in 1897 (now at risk of closing), and  Caffè Concerto Paszkowski, born as a brewery in 1846.

Rome – First stop is conveniently located next to the Termini train station: Caffè Trombetta, on Via Marsala, opened in 1890, as a roasting shop selling bulk coffee.  Near the Pantheon, stop for coffee granita at La Tazza d’Oro, or have an espresso at Sant’Eustachio, a wooden coffee roasting shop which opened in 1938, although the place already existed in the 1800s with the name Caffè e Latte, ‘coffee and milk’. Another spot to try is Castroni, which has been producing its own coffee since 1932.

Naples – In Naples, drinking coffee is a ritual. The elegant Caffè Gambrinus is a must stop, where intellectuals, politicians and businessmen gathered in the 19th and 20th centuries; they also make their own pastries.  Gran Caffè La Caffettiera processes beans according to humidity in the air; Bar del Professore is another popular coffee spot, with 63 variations on coffee, of which are especially famous ‘hazelnut coffee’ (nocciolato).

Cosenza - In the heart of the historic center, Renzelli is a coffee shop with more than 200 years of history. Founded in 1803, it was a meeting place for intellectuals and scholars, and now it’s an ideal place to enjoy an espresso and to taste the famous nougat Renzelli; produced here for more than a century, it’s made with almonds and hazelnuts, and covered with sugar.

Need train tickets to reach the above destinations? Buy them on Italia Rail