Italian cafe culture is renowned the world over, largely due to the country’s rich history with our favourite caffeinated drink. From being the first European power to import coffee beans in the 16th Century to the more modern invention of espresso, Italy has long been a powerhouse in the coffee world.
Italian espresso was invented in Milan in 1901 when Angelo Moriondo forced pressured water through finely ground coffee. From there, the espresso became a symbol of modernism. Coffee in Italy would never be the same; this new invention elevated the Italian caffe to new heights.
Let’s take a tour of Italy through some of the country’s most iconic cafes.
Cosenza: Gran Caffè Renzelli
Cosenza is a small city in Southern Italy that’s long been a cultural hub, home to the Cosentian Academy, one of the oldest academies in Europe founded in 1511. The Gran Caffè Renzelli has been run there by the same family since 1803 when its founder arrived from Naples. With the city’s academic background, the cafe has long been a favorite for scholars, who would meet for a rousing cup of coffee. Lounge away, maybe taking a bite of the torroncino torrefacto, a treat made of sugar, spices and hazelnuts.
Florence: Caffè Gilli
One of the best cafes in Florence is Caffè Gilli, a historical Belle Epoque cafe that’s been open for more than 270 years. The cafe started originally as a bozzolari — a place that sold sweetened doughnuts. This pastry tradition has continued throughout the years, making the cafe synonymous with excellent pastries and sweets. Don’t hesitate to try its chocolates, jellies, and bonbons.
Naples: Caffè Gambrinus
Just a few steps from the Royal Palace, this Naples cafe was founded back in 1860. This grand cafe is ripe with history; Oscar Wilde was known to drink here, and Mussolini had some of its rooms closed to exclude left-wing intellectuals. Get ready to experience delicious Neapolitan coffee under fancy chandeliers in belle epoque style.
Rome: Caffè Trombetta
Conveniently located next to the train station, one of the best cafes in Rome was created for the weary traveller. Founder Vittorio Trombetta wanted to welcome travellers to the capital in an elegant space that would make some of the best coffee in Rome. So well regarded that it became a haunt for locals as well, this high-quality establishment has been in business since 1890. Since that time the cafe has also had its own coffee roasting business. Be prepared to take a few bags home if you fancy the taste. Enjoy a sandwich or a gelato while watching folks pass by. Chat with a local about where to eat in Rome — Italians are always passionate about where to grab a bite.
Needless to say Italy is a coffee-lover’s paradise. These cafes are just the tip of the iceberg for a country that boasts the world’s richest cafe culture. Looking for more places to sip espresso? Once again, ask a local where you can find the best off-the-beaten-path cafes in their city.