Around Italy in 7 historic coffee bars

Last modified Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Visitors to Italy will immediately notice the absence of coffee bar chains, making it a coffee lovers paradise. Most of the bars are old, many have been around for over 100 years, and the coffee is usually very good.

Coffee arrived in Italy via the marine port of Venice, which is here we start this tour around Italy in 7 historical coffee bars.

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  2. Caffè Florian, Venice (1720)

    Piazza San Marco 56, Venice, 30124, Italy | www.caffeflorian.com

    Outside the Caffè Florian, Venice

    Not the original coffee bar (which also stood in Venice), but the Florian is Italy's oldest surviving coffee bar. Serving artists, musicians, politicians and even royalty since 1720, the Florian has been a crossroad of cultures for centuries. However, it is now popular largely among tourists adding another done to their bucket lists. The food and coffee are certainly nothing to right home about and if 7 Euros for a coffee seems a little steep, then like most other visitors, you may prefer to enjoy a coffee for a fraction of the price at one of the many other exceptional coffee bars hidden around Venice's narrow streets. If you do call by, after dark is undoubtedly the best time, with fewer tourists, and orchestras playing in St Marks Square creating a romantic atmosphere.

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  4. Caffè Gambrinus, Naples (1890)

    Via Chiaia 1-2, Naples, 80132, Italy | www.caffegambrinus.com

    Facade Caffè Gambrinus Naples

    Heading to the South of Italy, the Gambrinus in Napoli is an elegant, liberty-style coffee bar, that unlike the Florian, maintains reasonable prices. Apart from the coffee which is divine, try the pastries - sfogliatelle or babbà.

    There is probably no more appropriate time than pointing out whilst in Napoli, that standard Italian coffee is truly un dito (a fingers width). This is no more true than in Napoli, where a standard coffee would barely fill a thimble, and is drunk with the sole intention to fare la boca (flavour the palate after eating). I recently visited a bar with an English friend who was devastaed by his thimble-sized serving of coffee sat in the bottom of his cup, when I asked instead for an "enormous" coffee for a foreigner - the waiter came back with a half filled espresso cup. That said, it was exquisite.

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  6. Antico Caffè Greco, Rome (1760)

    Via Condotti 86, Piazza di Spagna, Rome, 50123, Italy | www.anticocaffegreco.eu/

    The Antico Caffè Greco, Rome

    Heading 2 hours north to the capital, Italy's second oldest coffee bar, il Caffè Greco in Rome's fashion district has been a renowned meeting place for poets and writers since 1760. Hans Christian Andersen, Byron, Goethe, Schopenhauer, Wagner, Welles, Levi, and even Casanova have all been regulars at this mecca of coffee and literature.

    Famous and well touristed it is, the Antico Caffè Greco remains true to its roots and is popular with writers even today.

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  8. Il Caffè Gilli, Florence (1733)

    Piazza della Repubblica 36-39r, Florence, 50123, Italy | www.gilli.it/

    Entrata Caffè Gilli

    Another 2 hours further North through winding country roads that take in vinyards and alleys of cypress trees leading up to Tuscan villas, brings you to scenic Florence in the heart of Italy.

    Since it's founding by a family of Swiss immigrants in 1733, the iconic Caffè Gilli in central Florence has become an institution. Like so many other bars on this list, the bar has always attracted famous writers and poets, and even today, hollywood stars, rockstars and politicians have all been spotted having a moment of relax in the Gilli. Sitting outside you can enjoy a coffee in one of Italy's most beautiful squares, though if you are on a budget, it is advisable to take your coffee standing al banco (for a fraction of the price).

    Tip! With some wines priced at an eye-watering 1350 Euros a bottle, check what you are ordering to avoid passing out.

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  10. Arione, Cuneo (1923)

    Piazza Galimberti 14, Cuneo 12100, Italy | www.arionecuneo.it/

    Entrata Arione Cuneo

    In the far North West of Italy, Cuneo and the Arione are not on your usual Italian tourist list, but they should be. Cuneo itself is a magestic ex-Royal town in Piemonte, with a stunning Alpine backdrop. Like most towns in Piemonte, it is famous throughout Italy for it's coffee bars, and none is more famous than the Arione.

    Tip: for an original gift to take back from Italy, try the Cuneesi al rhum - rhum and chocolate liquors first produced in this bar.

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  12. Caffè Confetteria al Bicerin, Turin (1763)

    Piazza della Consolata 5, Turin, Italy | www.bicerin.it

    Facade Caffè Confetteria al Bicerin, Turin

    Il Bicerin, literally the little cup in the local Piemontese dialect has been serving their trademark coffee, chocolate and cream concoction to famous clientele in Turin, North West Italy since 1763. Il bicerin is a small but welcoming bar that feels like you jumped back 200 years in time when you step though the door.

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  14. Pasticceria Cova, Milano (1817)

    Via Montenapoleone 8, Milano, 20100, Italy | www.pasticceriacova.com

    Pasticceria Cova, Milano

    Although moved from it's original spot, the chic Pasticceria Cova has always been in the heart of Milan's world famous via della moda, and attracts a Gucci and Prada clad crowd. Part of the attraction of the Cova is the walk passed through the world-famous fashion streets to get there.

    The bar itself is a mix of the old and new. We particularly enjoyed the Cova's coffee - a walnuty mix of central America and Brazilian beans.

    Tip: the Cova's Panettone (Italian Christmas and Easter cake) is a Milanese speciality and makes a great gift to take home from your travels.


Around Italy in 7 historic coffee bars

Many of Italy’s historic bars can be found on the official website for historic Italian bars (as informative as it is old).

3 comments

  • Chiang Mai Coffee Plantation Wednesday, 30 January 2013 19:21 posted by Chiang Mai Coffee Plantation

    :D

  • John Sunday, 30 December 2012 10:06 posted by John

    Nice list.
    I find it incredible that some of these are older than the United States of America.

  • TCL Pinner Wednesday, 26 December 2012 19:59 posted by TCL Pinner

    Out of my budget! Maybe they'll let me use the bathroom

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