Food & Spirits: From espresso shots in Naples to coffee-flavored gelato in Rome, discover exactly where today's coffee culture got its start by taking a tour of Italy's best cafes.
There's nothing like starting the day with a cappuccino. Nothing that is, unless you're starting that day with a cappuccino in Italy. Something hidden within the perfect crema, a dash of sugar, and milk foamed lighter than air makes you realize why this civilization in particular has not only survived for thousands of years but taught the rest of the world how to eat, drink, and be fashionable.
We've scoured the country from the sparkling vistas of Lake Como to the breathtaking Amalfi Coast and found, in no particular order, 10 cafes that make Italy's coffee culture the best in the world. No one does it better than the nation that invented espresso and if you haven't made the trip yet to see why, you might want to start stocking up on those frequent flier miles. Read. Sip. Enjoy. Ciao, bella!
Italy's Top Ten Must-See Cafes
Café Le Logge - An hour south of Florence in the town of Greve in Chianti, is the small but distinctly Tuscan Café Le Logge. The staff here work hard to make every customer feel at home with freshly made cappuccinos and jelly-filled croissants. At night, the café's personal wine cellar provides the perfect side to any of its local pasta dishes.
Il Caffe di Sant'Eustachio - Located in the heart of Rome's historic center, this is the setting everyone imagines when they dream of whiling away the hours of a perfect Italian day. Outdoor tables face a piazza where customers enjoy cups of the café's signature blend that includes secret ingredients known only to the café owners. Inside, the café remains much the same as it was when it got its start in the 1930's.
Caffe Quadri - The quintessential Venetian café, this one comes with its own orchestra. With the venerable view of St. Mark's Square in the background, Caffé Quadri is best enjoyed in the evening when the crowds have quieted down and pigeons are back in their nests for the night. Open since the late 1600's, when coffee-drinking first came into vogue, the café still boasts the ornate Venetian charm that's quickly fading in today's fast-paced culture.
Caffetteria Bellavia - If you're looking for a break in frantic, fast-paced Naples, Caffetteria Bellavia is the place to find it. Centrally located near the Piazza Amedeo, the café's furnishings have been wrought from precious materials and the home made chocolates and pastries fit right in. The coffee is said to be excellent and the liquers delicious. For a city known for its pizza, this café makes a name for itself in its own way.
Bar Café Rossi - You haven't truly experienced Bellagio until you've set foot in Bar Café Rossi. And no, we're not talking about the hotel in Las Vegas. Tucked inside an arcade just off of the town's main square, the café serves fresh made pastries, coffee, and sandwiches in an Art Nouveau setting highlighted by intricately carved cabinets and tile work.
Bar Pasticerria La Zagara - Under a canopy of creeping vines and bougainvillea, this café offers respite from the mid-day Positano sun. Whether you're in need of a Limoncello to cool down from a day of sun bathing or looking for an iced coffee and gelato, this half-century old café is the place to do it. Situated on one of Positano's legendary cliffs, the view of the Gulf of Salerno is not to be missed.
Caffe Viarenna - A great spot to start your day in Milan, or finish up the night before, Caffe Viarenna is famous locally for its fresh croissants. Other house specialties include cold pastas, aperitifs, and elegantly displayed desserts. The shop's window looks out on Corso di Porta Ticinese and is the perfect place for sipping espresso and plotting your next fashionable day.
Giolitti - We're heading back to Rome for this one. It's not technically a café, but Giolitti's original location on via Uffici del Vicario is just up from the Pantheon and is the city's oldest destination for gelato. Plus, it opens at 7 a.m. and no one has ever had to explain away eating ice cream for breakfast while on vacation. If you must have coffee, try the caffe flavor combined with gianduia (chocolate hazelnut) and we guarantee you won't be disappointed.
Kursaal Kalhesa - Perhaps the most unique place to dine on our list, Kursaal Kalhesa represents the thriving youth scene of Palermo, Sicily. With an eclectic menu including Sicilian cuisine with a Middle Eastern touch and wines from all over the world, this café resides within one of the city's ancient walls. Hundred-foot high ceilings, a gorgeous courtyard, and a built-in library add to the ambiance.
Caffe al Bicerin - Last, but absolutely not least, is the Torino landmark, Caffe al Bicerin. Founded in 1763, this café specializes in the Bicerin, a mixture of espresso, chocolate, and fresh cream that's been warming Alpine customers for centuries. The café also carries spicy hot and cold chocolate drinks and delectable pastries.