Coffee Culture in Florence! The basics.

Of all the beverage in Italy to be enjoyed there is one I love above them all (you’ll have to ask Carrie about the wine…)

Italians tend to stand and eat for breakfast (and often lunch as well). It is a little odd for most Americans, but that is how Italians do it. If you sit at a table in a Bar (not the beer kind, the coffee kind) they will charge you more money even if you are eating and drinking the same exact thing as the people standing. It is not a scam; it’s just how it is done.

A stunning latte from a local Italian bar

There are often two menus: the sitting menu and the standing menu. They are exactly the same but one tacks on a euro or two (minimum) to all the prices. It is a painful lesson to learn as the same exact cup of coffee and a pastry that usually costs 3.50 Euro standing can cost 15 Euro sitting. I kid you not. They will see that you are American and try to get you to sit. Just kindly say no and stand like the cool, hip Italians.
In most places where standing is the name of the game you usually pay first, THEN eat. So if you go to a coffee bar and want a juice and a pastry, you go to the register FIRST (called the cassa), tell them what you are having, pay, then take your receipt over to the bar, tell the person behind the bar what you ordered and (after checking your receipt) they will bring it to you. This way you can eat and leave at your leisure. So just remember DON’T LOSE THAT RECIEPT. It seems funny at first, but after a day or two you get the idea and it feels normal.

The rule of thumb in Italy (though it is changing) is that the only acceptable time to have a cappuccino (espresso with milk) or a latte (espresso with slightly more milk) is in the morning. After 11am most Italians switch to either a plain espresso or a macchiato (an espresso shot with just a splash of milk). This is especially true after dinner. Italian think milk is hard on digestion and would never follow a meal with it. That being said, do what you want! Besides, you will never have cappuccinos like the ones you have in Italy.

A cioccolata calda con panna from Caffe Rivoire

If you are not a big coffee drinker and happen to love orange juice may I highly recommend the spremuta. This word roughly translates to “freshly squeezed orange juice from heaven.” Every self-respecting Bar has an orange juice machine and, especially during blood orange season, that thing is on overdrive. If you need a vitamin C hit, nothing is more delicious. They always give you sugar to add but you really don’t need it. The oranges are amazing!

My other favorite beverage available in Italian Bars is called a Cioccolata Calda (hot chocolate). However, this is not like any hot chocolate you have ever had. It is literally melted chocolate and you can get it pretty much anywhere. Get it with panna (whipped cream), you won’t be sorry.

I would hope that any self-respecting coffee drinker plans on also be sampling the baked goods so here is just the basics. All pastries are either plain (vuoto, or empty), cream (crema), chocolate (cioccolata), apricot (albiccoca), or blackberry (mora). Some places also have frutti di bosco, which technically means fruits of the forest but is really just a berry blend. Really, who cares? They’re all delicious.

Here are my favorite spots in Florence:
Robiglio, Via de’ Tosinghi 11.
By far the best cappuccino in Florence. Also great pastries. Try the sfoglia, a delicious folded pocket of happiness filled with cream, chocolate, apricot, or blackberry jam.

Bar San Marco, Right on the corner of Piazza San Marco
By far the best latte in Florence. They are not the nicest here but that is really because they have no need to be. Their coffee is killer and they’re pastries are amazing!!
(**TIP: One rule in Florence that I found is really true is the ruder they are, the better the food.)

Riviore, Piazza della Signoria (on the corner of Via Vacchereccia) 4R
This is one of the more famous coffee bars in Florence (read: also more crowded and more expensive). It is right on Piazza Signoria so great for people watching if you don’t mind paying the cover to sit. Otherwise just go to the bar. They have the best cioccolata calda in town and on a cold winter night half the crowd will be enjoying one.

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