In any Italian home, when a guest comes by (or after any major meal) it is an important time of the day… because it is coffee time.
By “coffee” I mean the best ever — the base for all coffees — Espresso. Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato, Mocha, even Americano start off with Espresso, a concentrated beverage brewed by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans.
Espresso often has a thicker consistency than coffee brewed by other methods. Italians drink 14 billion cups of espresso each year, and we have over 280,000 qualified baristas. Think we take this stuff seriously?
I don’t have a single memory without a meal ending with Espresso: Everyone gathered around a table while drinking a tiny cup of the fragrant, rich, and tasty drink, hands up in the air as we discussed and argued over everyday events. Sometimes my dad and uncles would add a shot of Sambuca — an extra boost.
From the moment we woke up, until our last meal there was always Espresso around. Even one of our most famous desserts is made with Espresso, Tiramisù (which literally means pick me up!).
I love that in Italy there is a coffee bar around every corner. They are places of socialization. For me, they have been havens, too: I’ve spent many rainy November days in Florence finding shelter in cafes. In almost serendipitous moments, I was lucky enough to discover some of the coziest cafes the city had to offer.
Caffe Gilli was my go to at any given moment, located in my favorite piazza in Florence, Piazza Della Republic. The coffees and pastries here are the most expensive you will find in the area, but well worth it. I enjoyed many mornings sitting outside with a croissant and cappuccino while watching vendors set up for their day.
Chiaroscuro in Via Del Corso was my stop on my walks to and from work. It became the spot to hangout with my friends. This place has a real feel of authentic Florence with an impressive coffee menu (and it’s only a block away from Il Duomo).
But you don’t have to live in Florence to find a good cafe. Most cafes in Italy are very elegant: Long glass pastry cabinets burst with creamy and custardy treats while marble bar tops make the venues all the more inviting.
So gulp your coffee down quickly or linger for the afternoon. Espresso is part of our lifestyle, and one of the best gifts that Italians have given the world. Like most things I admire about my culture, is it’s all about tradition.
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