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5 Must-Visit Historic Cafés and Bars in Italy

Looking to experience Italy’s famed coffee and aperitivo culture? Here are the places you need to target for your next trip to some of the country’s major destinations.

Baratti & Milano in Turin

Inside Baratti & Milano in Turin. Photo: Courtesy of Baratti & Milano

Cafés are an integral part of life in Italy. With an enviable coffee and aperitivo culture, it's inevitable that Italians flock to their local bar or caffetterie. From big cities to small towns, this is where people kick off their day or come to unwind and catch up with friends. With each releasing irresistible aromas into their air, choosing one is a challenge. If you have been in this predicament before, this guide can help. Packed with history and mouth-watering treats, these five must-visit historic cafés around Italy are sure to please your eyes and palate!

Caffè Florian (Venice)

Caffè Florian in Venice
Caffè Florian in Venice. Photo: Courtesy of Archivio Caffè Florian

Venice is characterized by its elegant, one-of-a-kind flair, and Caffè Florian embodies every bit of this spirit. Located in St. Mark's Square, this legendary coffeehouse should be on every itinerary. Since opening in 1720, it has stood the test of time, surviving wars and political instability. This has been a staple meeting place for Venetians, from nobles and artists to ordinary citizens. It has also hosted a wide guest list of international stars. 

With an ample selection of coffee, tea, sandwiches, sweet treats, and aperitivi, Caffè Florian has something to satisfy every taste at any time of day. To the joy of celiacs, they have a range of gluten-free products, securely prepared and packaged to prevent cross contamination. If you visit in the morning, ordering a cappuccino is a must. But if stopping by later in the day, consider opting for their famous Spritz Florian.

Though the menu alone is enough to draw in visitors, the ambience of this gem makes it a magnet! Outside, it offers ample seating in the piazza, with the opportunity to enjoy a live orchestra during the warmer months (from April to October). Meanwhile inside, it features six halls (or rooms), each more elaborate than the other. Ornate architecture and intricate paintings give each hall a museum-like quality. A visit here is sure to delight your senses! 

Sant’Eustachio (Rome)

Cappuccino at Sant'Eustachio in Rome
Cappuccino at Sant'Eustachio in Rome. Photo: Courtesy of Sant’Eustachio

Just steps from Piazza Navona and the Pantheon is where you will find Sant’Eustachio. Founded in 1938, it is the oldest coffee roaster in Rome's breathtakingly beautiful historic center. Today, under the direction of the Ricci family, it remains a popular spot to enjoy premium quality coffee. And while it may be a historic venue, it stays current by sourcing fair trade, organic arabica beans from South America. To the delight of coffee lovers, their beans are available for purchase. They also offer their own line of caffettiere (moka pots) and espresso cups. 

From its wide selection of coffee (both hot and cold) to its pastries, there is something for everyone. So whether you fancy the simplicity of an espresso or the decadence of a cappuccino and cornetto, starting your morning here is the prelude to a great day. Especially popular on their menu is the refreshing shakerato, perfect for those hot summer days. Open every day, except Christmas Day and Ferragosto (August 15), a visit to Sant'Eustachio is obligatory when in Rome. 

Caffè degli Specchi (Trieste)

Often considered the coffee capital of Italy, it's no surprise that Trieste is home to many stylish coffee bars. Among them is Caffè degli Specchi, an iconic gem that faces the Adriatic Sea in the famed Piazza Unità d'Italia. Founded in 1839, it has long been a mainstay for locals, earning it the reputation as il salotto di Trieste (the parlor of Trieste). Whether it's to conduct business or simply catch up with friends and loved ones, this is a wonderful place to relish the pleasure of a fine coffee. Having recently come under the management of the Peratoner family, who are master chocolatiers, you can expect to enjoy top quality chocolate treats. But their selection isn't limited to coffee and sweets. Boasting a large menu, one can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Caffè degli Specchi. And if you're looking for an aperitivo spot with loads of charm and ambience, this is the place to visit! 

Gran Caffè Gambrinus (Naples)

Sfogliatella at Gran Caffè Gambrinus in Naples
Sfogliatella at Gran Caffè Gambrinus in Naples. Photo: Courtesy of Gran Caffè Gambrinus

Situated in a prime position, Gran Caffè Gambrinus is at the heart of Naples in the ever iconic Piazza del Plebiscito. Founded in 1860, it offers a level of grandeur reminiscent of eras past. It's the go-to spot for Italian Presidents when visiting this great city, which is a testament to its excellence. Naples boasts a rich repertoire of sweet treats and this coffee house is renowned for its wide selection of them. From their babà and sfogliatella, to their pastiera and torta caprese, their menu will not disappoint. And don't forget to partake in the coveted Neapolitan tradition of caffè sospeso. If you're unfamiliar with this custom, it consists of drinking one coffee, but paying for two. Baristas will then give the second (prepaid) coffee to an incoming patron. My best advice when visiting Gran Caffè Gambrinus is to come with an empty stomach and your camera handy! 

Baratti & Milano (Turin)

exterior of Baratti & Milano
Baratti & Milano in Turin. Photo: Courtesy of Baratti & Milano

Since opening its doors in 1875, Caffè Baratti & Milano is the most posh spot to enjoy coffee in Turin. It has regal charm, thanks to its location in Galleria Subalpina and elaborate decor, making it popular among poets, artists, philosophers, and locals. Founded by two confectioners, the brand behind this iconic cafe excels in its creation of fine quality chocolate and candy. For over 160 years, they have used the best ingredients to ensure patron satisfaction. And given the city's particularly strong coffee culture, excellence is the key to its success. 

While you can't go wrong with any of the options on the menu, you must try the bicerin when in town. Served in a clear glass, it's a mixture of coffee, melted chocolate, and a layer of sweetened whipped cream on top. This drink is nothing short of decadent! You can also opt to enjoy lunch prepared by Michelin-starred chef Ugo Alciati or sip on their classic cocktails for an aperitivo. But if you want to bring home a piece of Baratti & Milano, be sure to pick up their famed gianduiotti chocolate bars. Featuring locally-sourced hazelnuts from Piedmont, cocoa from Ecuador, and milk from Normandy, these bite-sized delights will transport you back to Turin long after your visit is over. 

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