Coffee is serious business in Italy. Italians head to the bar (as coffee shops and cafés are most commonly referred to) first thing in the morning and might visit another two, three or more times throughout the day. In Rome, as with much of the bel paese, the drink of choice is usually un caffè, an espresso, or, if it’s before midday, maybe a cappuccino. Ensure any trip to the capital is fully caffeinated with this list of popular places for a coffee fix.
Sant’ Eustachio Il Caffè
Cafe, Italian, $$$
Sant’Eustachio il Caffè is known for its ‘grand cafe’ | Courtesy of Sant’Eustachio il Caffè
A local institution, Sant’ Eustachio has been caffeinating Romans since 1938. This historic but unpretentious café selects beans from cooperatives in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Brazil to make their brew. What sets this place apart is the unusual preparation method – if you want your coffee zuccherato(with sugar) the barista will do it for you by adding a spoonful of a sweet, frothy foam made from the first few drops of an espresso whipped with sugar.
Established in 1946, Tazza d’Oro is held in high regard by coffee-guzzling Romans, who come for the top-notch espresso, cappuccino and, of course, the famed granita al caffè. This icy, slushy coffee drink is served with whipped cream and provides a sweet hit of caffeine and calories. Roasted coffee beans, tea blends, and other gift items are also on sale. Outside, there’s even a vending machine that dishes out packs of coffee 24/7.
A vintage tram carriage has found new life in the neighbourhood of Testaccio as a trendy coffee shop and late-night drinking spot. Tram Depot serves up a range of coffees, including harder to find – in Rome, at least – syphon and dripper varieties, as well as cocktails, fresh juices, smoothies, and a small selection of pastries and sandwiches. There’s no space for roasting in this tiny kiosk, so it sources its coffee from Torrefazione Lady Café, an artisanal producer based outside Parma. Closed during winter.
Panella is best known for its artisanal breads and pastries – check out the window display of intricate dough sculptures shaped like the Colosseum and other Rome icons – but the outdoor seating area, draped in colourful and shade-giving flowers, makes it a charming spot to enjoy a coffee. Try the caffè freddo – a cold, sweet coffee that is a little longer than a regular espresso – at one of the high tables with stools, where there’s no service charge.
Very nearly a century old, Sciascia is an old-school coffee house in the white-collar neighbourhood of Prati. The burnished wooden panelling, period artwork and vintage machines are all part of the charm and help make this an evocative spot for a caffeine fix. Their signature coffee is a punchy espresso served in a porcelain cup lined with melted dark chocolate.
Opened in 1860, Antico Caffè Greco is the oldest coffee shop in Rome and the second-oldest in all of Italy. An eclectic mix of intellectuals and freethinkers have frequented this historic bar over the years, including Hans Christian Andersen, Casanova, Keats, Shelley, Mark Twain and Orson Welles, to name a few. The vibe is formal and the prices high, hitting double figures for coffee and a pastry sitting at one of the antique, marble-topped tables. Opt to stand at the bar instead if you want to pay less.
Offering coffee, cocktails, light lunches, pastries, and even gelato, Andreotti keeps the residents of Ostiense fed and watered from dawn ’til dusk. These days, the décor is bright and modern but a vintage snapshot of the Andredotti family reveals the historical roots of this family-run pastry shop and café. The small cakes and pastries, known as pasticcini, are the perfect accompaniment to coffee and are also available to take away. In fact, an elegantly wrapped tray of pasticcini is the Italians’ gift of choice for dinner parties.
Billing itself as Rome’s first speciality coffee shop, Faro is unlike a typical Italian bar. Customers can sip at leisure in this contemporary space and staff are happy to share knowledge of the coffee production process. Here, roasting is deliberately light and delicate to avoid any bitter notes, meaning skipping sugar is recommended. There’s plenty of choice in both the method of brewing (espresso machine, AeroPress, syphon) and the type of bean – go for the house blend or one of the higher-priced coffees from the specials menu.
Roscioli Caffè is part of the Roscioli-family empire, which includes an upscale restaurant and a speciality bakery with institution-like status in Rome. Thanks to its use of Arabica beans from Torrefazione Giamaica Caffè, an artisanal roaster based in Verona, and its interest in brewing techniques new to Romans, such as pour-over and syphon, this tiny shop has quickly become known for its top-quality coffee. Enjoy with a cream-filled bun known as a maritozzo, a Roman speciality.
Originally the workshop and studio of Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova, the Museo Canova-Tadolini is now part-museum, part-restaurant. Elegant tables sit among marble statues, while vintage photographs, newspaper clippings and original documents detailing the atelier’s fascinating past line the walls. Table service is steep, so enjoy a coffee and homemade pastry standing at the bar for a fraction of the price.