best coffee rome © Will Travel for Food

Perfect caffé latté (Photo by mrb404)

best cafe rome © Will Travel for Food

Caffè e cornetto, a perfect way to start the day…

It is nearly impossible to have a bad coffee in Rome. I have never had one in the three times I have been there, which is yet another reason to love that great city.

Coffee is such an integral part of Italian life that not being an aficionado may get you escorted outside the city’s gates (don’t quote me on that!). Whether they live in the capital or a small town, Italians stop by their favourite “bar” (café) every morning before starting their day. This morning routine takes no longer than a few minutes, just enough time to down a morning cappuccino and cornetto (the Italian version of a croissant) while leaning against the bar and catching up on the local gossip with the barista and some of the other regulars.

Some facts you should know about ordering coffee in Italy:

  • An espresso is simply a “caffè”, espresso being a technical term (and yes, that’s espresso with an s. For the love of all that is holy, please don’t pronounce it expresso!)
  • If you sit down at a table, the coffee will cost you more than if you have it standing up at the bar like all Italians do.
  • The espressi (plural of espresso) are very strong and bitter in Italy so mellow yours out with some milk foam by ordering a macchiato or dilute it a tad by ordering a lungo. If you really want the (much superior) equivalent of a drip coffee, order an americano.
  • Italian coffee etiquette dictates that one should never order a cappuccino or a latte after 10 or 11am. Those are considered breakfast drinks and you will be looked at funny if you do. However, I personally didn’t abide to this rule and survived just fine.
  • A “bar” is a café where you can purchase coffee, pastries, panini and more so look for the “bar” sign when you’re in a need of a caffeine fix.
  • If you want a latte, order a latte macchiato since “latte” means milk and you’ll simply get a glass of the stuff.
  • A “caffè corretto” is an espresso with a shot of alcohol in it – anything from grappa to sambuca – for a different kind of pick-me-up.
best coffee in rome © Will Travel for Food

Like I always say…

Try as you may, you will have a hard time finding a Starbucks or any other coffee chain in Italy and no third wave coffee phenomenon has taken over the city’s cafés (yet). The baristas don’t weight the grounds, or spend several minutes tapping, adjusting and pressing. They don’t time the espresso shots nor do they own a thermometer to control the milk temperature. And yet somehow, with only their bare hands and an invaluable instinct, they manage to serve amazing beverages every single time.

Rome’s cafés are loud and chaotic at any time of day! The aggressive clanking of dishes, the continuous whistling of the espresso machine, the crushing sound of the grinder, the whizzing of the milk frother, the tapping, the animated conversations, the friendly “buongiornos”… it’s all so dizzyingly loud and yet such a soothing and familiar cacophony that makes me feel right at home. Coupled with the smells of the roasting beans and fresh pastries, there’s nowhere I’d rather be early in the morning in any city in the world.

On my latest visit a couple of weeks ago, I spent two days “bar” hopping in search of the perfect cup. As I said above, most of them are nearly perfect but listed below are some of my favourites.

rome cafe sant eustachio © Will Travel for Food

Gran Caffè at Sant’Eustachio

Founded in 1938, this is probably the most famous of all bars in Rome. It is cited in all the tourist guides and is a bit too touristy for my taste. However, their coffee is great and it’s worth a stop, especially because it’s just a stone throw away from the Pantheon, one of Rome’s most beautiful monuments. The Sant’Eustachio super secret recipe is roasted in the back of the store over a wood-burning stove that’s been functional since 1948. Don’t e offended if the baristas block your view when preparing the gran caffé’s outstanding “crema” (coffee froth); they’re just trying to preserve the secret that’s made them so famous. It’s a great spot to buy some chocolate-covered coffee beans. The Sant’Eustachio coffee is sold in Montreal at La Mer, Ciel mon café and Nicola Travaglini.

What to order:
A Gran caffé. Place your order at the right side of the bar then give your receipt to the barista on the left side. The gran caffé will be made sweet by placing a lump of sugar at the bottom of the cup unless you specify that you wanted amaro (bitter) when placing your order. The crema (coffee froth) in this special caffè is much thicker and denser than anywhere else.

Sant’Eustachio Il Caffé
Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82
00186 Rome, Italy
+011 39 06 68802048

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Thursday 8:30am – 1:00am
Friday 8:30am – 1:30am
Saturday 8:30am – 2:00am

tazza doro rome cafe © Will Travel for Food

A view of the Pantheon from Tazza d’Oro

tazza doro cafe rome © Will Travel for Food

Seeing double: caffè and reflection at Tazza d’Oro (Photo by mrb404)

Tazza d’Oro
Open since 1946 and only a few feet from the Pantheon, Tazza d’Oro claims to be the “best in the world”. I am not sure if it’s the view of the Pantheon or the vibe in this bar but it’s definitely my favourite in Rome and one that I go to every time. Their famous “La Regina dei Caffe” blend is roasted and mixed in-house and is available for purchase in beautiful rectangular tin cans.

What to order:
An espresso or a cappuccino, both are great and some of the best I’ve had in Rome.

Tazza d’Oro
Via degli Orfani, 84 (Pantheon)
00186 Rome, Italy
+011 39 06 6789792

Opening Hours:
Daily from 7am to 8pm

cafe rome barberino © Will Travel for Food

Caffè and cornetti at Caffè Baerberino

Caffè Barberino
This little inconspicuous bar came up when I was searching for the best cornetto in Rome. It is located in the Testaccio neighbourhood, right next door to Volpetti, a great salumeria and down the street from the Testaccio market, a must stop for any foodie.

What to order:
A cornetto! They were the best I had in Rome. Order a plain one and dunk it in your cappuccino or one stuffed with marmalade or pastry cream.

Caffè Barberino
Via Marmorata, 41 (Testaccio)
00153 Rome, Italy
+011 39 5750869

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 6:30am – 8:30pm

caffe camerino rome © Will Travel for Food

Cafffè completo at Cafffè Camerino (Photo by mrb404)

Cafffè Camerino (yes, that’s cafffè with three fs)
This café is located right across the street from Torre Argentina, an entire city-block containing Rome’s oldest temple ruins and its largest cat-sanctuary with over 250 feline inhabitants. It can be easily missed but it’s worth a stop for its excellent cafffè completo.

What to order:
A cafffè completo made by layering a spoonful of chocolate paste, a shot of espresso, some dark cacao powder, a large spoonful of cold whipped cream panna and a sprinkling of dark cacao powder. The contrast of flavours, textures and temperatures between the dense chocolate paste, the bitter hot espresso and the sweetened cold cream is absolutely delicious!

Cafffè Camerino
Largo Arenula, 30
Rome, Italy
+011 39 06 6892166

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 6:45am – 8:00pm
Saturday 7:00am – 8:00pm
Sunday 8:30am – 8:00pm

antico greco best caffe rome © Will Travel for Food

Caffè freddo and a lot of art at Antico Greco Caffè

Antico Caffè Greco
Open since 1760, Antico Caffè Greco has preserved all of its old-school Renaissance charm. The coffee will cost you 5 times as much as anywhere else but the experience is worth it. Sit down on one of the plush velvet chairs and watch a serious and ceremonious waiter in a tuxedo take your order. Breathe in the history of the café and all the great thinkers and artists who have walked through its rooms for the past two centuries (Goethe, Stendhal, Casanova, Wagner and so many more were all regulars here). Antico Caffè Greco is also the largest private gallery open to the public with over 300 works of art adorning its walls.

What to order:
A caffè freddo: a cold, black, slightly diluted and sweetened espresso, perfect on a hot summer day.

Antico Caffè Greco
Via Condotti, 86 (Piazza di Spagna)
Rome, Italy
+011 39 06 6791700

best view of rome © Will Travel for Food

The stunning view of Rome from Terrazza Caffarelli

best espresso rome © Will Travel for Food

Espresso at Caffè Capitolino (Photo by mrb404)

Terrazza Caffarelli / Caffè Capitolino / Musei Capitolini
I’m not sure that this cafeteria-style spot can qualify as a café but it is definitely worth a visit. The breathtaking bird’s eye view of all of Rome from its terrasse will blow you away. It can be tricky to find so don’t be shy to ask around for it.

What to order:
It is not so much what you order over here as it is where you order it. The food may not be the best (the coffee is ok) but the view from the terrasse of Rome sprawled at your feet definitely is!

Musei Capitolini
Piazza del Campidoglio 1
00186 Rome, Italy
+011 39 06 0608

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 9:00am – 7:30pm

best coffee in rome © Will Travel for Food

Caffé & cornetti at the local bar (Photo by mrb404)

One final thought, can someone please explain why is it that I can have 5 or 6 espressos a day when I’m in Italy and still sleep like a baby but if I have more than 2 when I’m home, I’m up all night?

Don’t forget to check out my guide to some of Rome’s best eats and drinks and my Rome Google map here. It’s a very handy tool to have when in Rome…

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