Writer Jason Huffnagle is traveling all across Europe, drinking coffee and sharing with us the cultures, recipes, and traditions of the beverage all across the continent. In this edition, he visits Rome.
BY JASON HUFFNAGLE
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos courtesy of Jason Huffnagle
Once the capital of the vast Roman Empire and the epicenter of the Renaissance itself, Rome is an incredible place to visit. There’s virtually an endless number of perfect, classic architectural examples (buildings, statues, fountains, bridges, etc.) down every street.
Streets (and sidewalks) are jam-packed with cars, mopeds, and people, almost making Rome a city of sensory overload. With all this busy-ness and the limited amount of green space, it is little wonder café culture is so strong here, with locals frequently taking shelter from the frenetic outside world in one of the many cafés dotted across the city.
Cafés generally offer inexpensive coffee, so you almost cannot go wrong with trying any one of the shops you encounter. Service is generally prompt and congenial. Once ready to take your order, service staff will address you by simply stating prego, an Italian word literally translating to “you are welcome.” If on the go, make sure you ask before ordering if the shop does to-go orders—many of the ones I visited did not.
Founded in 1919 as a specialty-coffee roaster, Sciascia became a full-fledged café nearly 15 years ago. Known for their caffè eccellente, an espresso served with a drop of dark chocolate, and impeccable service, their space is quiet and offers ample seating. Since they have their own roasting operation, their coffee is noticeably fresh.
Located in Rome’s Prati district, Sciascia is a short walk from Vatican City, a must-visit while in Rome. Enjoy your coffee at the café or order it for takeaway; you’ll want to be certain that you visit St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums.
Sant’Eustachio, named after the piazza and basilica it sets across from, is a charming Old World café. Upon entry, move to the right side of the room to place your order at the giant mechanical register. After paying for your beverage, take your receipt and cross to the other side of the room, carefully dodging dazed and confused tourists along the way. Find yourself a perch at the bar and show a barista your receipt. While waiting for your drink, take in the unique atmosphere and congratulate yourself, perhaps somewhat smugly, on managing the process like a local. Though table-less inside, the café has plenty of patio seating that spills out onto the cobblestone piazza.
I decided to stay at the bar, enjoying the opportunity to witness the magic occurring on the other side of the counter. I ordered a caffè shakerato, a traditional Italian beverage typically made with shots of espresso, cream, ice, and sugar, shaken and served in a tall, thin glass. It was creamier than expected and, due to its bitterness, I regretted declining the recommended sugar.
This café is centrally located to many historical and cultural sites, including, the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.
Faro – Luminaries of Coffee
Stepping into Faro, you will immediately be overcome with a familiar feeling. The sounds and smells reminded me of some of my favorite coffee shops back home in the United States, a much welcome feeling after several weeks on the road. They have incredible food, plenty of places to sit, and are reasonably close to several bus lines and a stop on Rome’s underground line (Castro Pretorio).
Nearby, you will find the Borghese Gallery and Museum. This former country villa was designed by architect Flaminio Ponzio and was built for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V (reign 1605-1621). Borghese was an early patron of Bernini and an avid collector of works by Caravaggio, something that remains evident from its impressive collections. You can’t go wrong by making Faro a stop before or after your visit to this impressive museum
Word to the wise: Book your tickets for the Borghese online in advance.
I am next headed to beautiful Florence, a major historical and cultural center in its own right known for being the hometown of the formidable patrons of the arts, the Medici family. I am looking forward to enjoying the sights and sounds of its famous piazzas, taking in its famous cathedral, the Duomo, and visiting many of the famous works of art found in the city’s invaluable art collections.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Huffnagle is a freelance writer for Barista Magazine who has worked in coffee as a barista for six years. Having recently left his “adult job” in the U.S. Senate, the Alaska native is spending the next four months traveling throughout Europe. You can keep up with his coffee-fueled travels and other exploits by following him on Twitter.