Sunday, December 7, 2008

Coffee please

When in Rome do as the Romans do.

It goes without saying that the Romans have realized the perfect way to start their day, keeping it simple...A coffee and cornetto at one of the countless coffee bars in Rome.

I haven't always been a coffee enthusiast, in fact it took an unfortunate event for me to make the swift switch. I had been regularly visiting a relative, in the Rome countryside and on this particular visit was invited to make my own cup of tea while "Nonna" needed to take care of another matter. So there I was, alone in her kitchen pouring hot water into a cup and too my horror a ghastly sight of maggots came floating to the surface ! You can imagine Nonna's surprise of my newly found love of coffee on my following visit. I'm guessing those teabags had been reserved for "stranieri" (foreigners) like me !

I love the fact that coffee in Rome is at it's best anytime of the day. On just about every street corner sits a bar "coffee bar" each one enticing patrons inside. Some offer a student special " cappucino & cornetto, 1 euro". In the window of another, a sign reads "Happy Hour,"while for most of the coffee bars it is simply the wonderful aroma of coffee itself.

There is a such a variety to choose from. A very simple establishment to even the grand, boasting chandeliers and seating inside and out, you are bound to pay more for such comforts (and we do). Then you stumble across a coffee bar that welcomes a steady flow of patrons, many of whom are familiar faces to the bartender, and there is standing room only. Here, tucked neatly away behind the dome glass counter an assortment of "pasticcini mignons" little cakes await! So tempting they are. The only thing that hindered me was my lack of the Italian language. I managed only to buy a few "cioccolato" that day. And the coffee here, in my humble opinion ..... Just perfect.


peterW said...

"Caffe Peter!"
Reading this posting I was instantly back in Rome! The sights, the smells (sorry - aromas!) and Uncle Mauro enthusiastically inviting me to join him for 'caffe' as he slipped through the doorway of one of the many coffee bars in Rome you mention. And me following him, naively imagining a leisurely early morning cappucino sitting around tables chatting about life in broken English and Italian. The actual reality was a cultural shock of men standing around the bar (like an Australian pub before closing time) knocking back tiny tumblers of potent black stuff. Uncle expected me, a delicate Englishman, to drop dead on the spot as I knocked the stuff back like a native. He was delighted to see I took it like a man and promptly ordered another one for me! I think it was a form of cultural initiation, and although my Italian is almost non-existent, and Uncle Mauro's English 'ditto' after this we seemed to hit it off and the basis for meaningful two-way communication had been established. Despite our lack of language, while we were visiting the ancient Forum, Uncle was able to inform me that Caesar Augustus had introduced public toilets to Rome! Interesting!
Did Augustus also have a hand in initiating the coffee culture I wondered. Perhaps Uncle might know about that too. You see Augustus was born and grew up in Uncle's town. so there must be an awful lot Uncle knows.
When my Italian has improved I might be able to tap directly into the oral history of that ancient place. What better way of doing this than blending in with the locals in the many coffee bars in and around the region?

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