Italy is known around the world for its café culture, and with good reason. Coffee is an inherent part of the country’s everyday life, and everything from how it is made to when it is drunk – and in what form – are matters the Italians generally take very seriously. They have had plenty of time to perfect the art: coffee first reached Venice in the early 1600s, through merchants trading with Istanbul, and within a few decades coffee houses had sprung up in towns and cities across Italy.
Typically, the coffee beans used by an Italian café will be the Arabica kind, which are full of flavour. If you ask for caffè, you will be presented with an espresso; to Italians this is the standard way to drink coffee, and no self-respecting connoisseur would dream of ordering a latte or cappuccino after midday.
Milan’s Pavè café aims to create the atmosphere of the visitor’s own living room, albeit with better food and drink. There’s a lot to like about this informal and unfussy space, including its delicious baked goods, which are all made in house to recipes that mix Italian tradition with innovation. Visit in the morning and enjoy an expertly made coffee alongside sweet puff pastries, pains au chocolat, savoury croissants and sweet focaccias; there’s also a large selection of teas and freshly squeezed juices. On particularly cold days, there’s nothing quite like Pavè’s Barbajada, a blend of dark chocolate, coffee, milk foam and cocoa nibs, or try the Holiday Tea – black tea spiced with citrus, almond, clove and cinnamon – with your choice of freshly made cakes.
Pavè, Via Felice Casati 27, 20124 Milan, +39 02 9439 2259
Museo Atelier Canova Tadolini
If you’ve ever wanted to sip a cup of coffee surrounded by imposing and elaborately carved marble sculptures, the Museo Atelier Canova Tadolini is the place to do it. This museum-café is located in the atelier of Antonio Canova, a neoclassical sculptor who rose to fame in the early 19th century, who shared it with his favourite pupil, Adamo Tadolini. Stop by for a civilised cup of tea or coffee and the delicious selection of homemade patisserie and biscuits. Those looking for greater sustenance are catered for with simple but delicious hot dishes that include spaghetti with clams, as well as local delicacies such as saltimbocca.
Museo Atelier Canova Tadolini, Via del Babuino 150A, 00187 Rome, +39 06 3211 0702
Caffè Giacosa was established in 1815 as a restaurant and tea room, known for its desserts, pastries and chocolate with which it supplied the Italian royal family. It became the meeting place of choice for the city’s aristocrats and other notables, even after its move into a more central part of Florence in the late 1920s. The city’s historic ‘drawing room’ today remains a place to see and be seen, thanks to the restoration of its classic interior – overseen by famed local fashion designer Roberto Cavalli – and its offering of reliably good coffee and cakes. Furthermore, the café has maintained its reputation as a chocolatier, and its pralines are a great success with locals and visitors alike.
Caffè Giacosa, Via della Spada 10R, 50123 Florence, +39 055 277 6328
Ciampini has been one of the places to go in Rome since it opened its first café in Piazza Navona in 1941, attracting the city’s most eminent writers, politicians and artists for decades. As well as the café – now in Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina – there is the equally popular Ciampini Bistrot a few steps away. Visit at any time of the day for a properly made cup of coffee and a bite to eat from the extensive menu. Nibble on freshly made cakes and tarts, mini sandwiches and pizzas as well as antipasti. For later in the day, there’s also a very respectable selection of wines, beers and cocktails.
Ciampini Bistrot, Via del Leoncino 43, 00186 Rome, +39 06 6813 5108