Let us start our visit to the best coffee shops in Rome with the town’s oldest one – and the second oldest in Italy.
Antico Caffe Greco was established in 1760, 40 years after Italy’s first coffee shop, Caffe Florian in Venice. It is said to have been a host to the countries greatest thinkers and artists, and one does not wonder why long after the first visit. (To start with, visit their website bellow, and you’ll understand…)
Although my experience of Greco was very brief, and followed a day’s worth of air travel, I knew I was in a very special place the minute I walked through its door. Accompanied by a native Roman on our first late-afternoon stroll down the town centre from Piazza del Popolo towards Fontana di Trevi, looking up and down the posh clothes shop of Via Condotti I couldn’t miss the great sign above the door. Although the whole thing looked as modest as any cafe with no outdoor sitting, somehow it emanated a posh feel. “Coffee?” my companion asked, and I didn’t even have time to express my fear that it would probably be super-expensive, before I was dragged inside.
It hit me with its splendour right in the face; the glow, the dimness, the artwork, the furnishings, the crowds, but most strikingly, the baristas in their banquet attire. To be served coffee by a guy in a suit and a bow-tie in a place like this felt like a privilege, and my eyes must have been gleaming as I silently took in the experience with admiration. Thankfully, this being Italy, they didn’t charge for their historical record (or for staring), and the bill for two coffees came up to 3,30 euro, if I’m not mistaken (if I’ve not mentioned before, Italian hospitality is one of the contemporary World wonders, in my view).
I cannot assess my friends Espresso, but I can say a few words about my Marrocchino. Yes, this new term is now fully incorporated into my daily routine, as I attempt to recreate the sensation from a perfect cocoa-espresso-milk mix (not necessarily in that order – I will talk a bit more about the drink itself in a separate post) that I experienced during my stay. This was my first coffee in Rome, and it was the cashier’s response to my query about a mocha.
It took some time to make it (I was too busy looking in all directions and wasn’t paying full attention to the preparation process, so I don’t know why), so my companion had already drunk his coffee when I sipped on mine. At first, I was struck by the familiar but surely not favourite espresso taste – strong and bitter (as hard as I try, I don’t think I will get used to no-sugar espresso any time soon). I couldn’t let this ruin the whole experience, so I frantically stirred the coffee to bring out the chocolatey taste, as I was sure that whatever they were serving me, we did all agree – the cashier, the barista and me – that is was a chocolate coffee (as all I kept repeating was “cioccolata”). That stir made all the difference, and I left with a pleasantly sweet aftertaste, and the sheer satisfaction that enjoying my first coffee in Italy had brought me.
My first great coffee – and first of many – I knew then Rome sure was my little heaven.