Location: Florence, Italy
Hhmmm…coffee…one of my vices, but the one for which I make no excuses, and about which I feel no need to justify my addiction! The Italians understand coffee, and as with so many other of life’s pleasures, they savor it. My travel buddy Hala and I were in Florence, on the first day of our Italy/Spain backpacking journey last summer. We were ready to fit as much as we could into our 3 days in this glorious city – we wanted to see the Duomo, the David, the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi…but we needed our morning coffee.
So we stopped in at this idyllic coffee shop down the street from our hostel, and as we stepped in, I was instantly taken by the pure energy of the place. The bartenders were yelling, the cash register was ringing incessantly, and the coffee bar was full of locals and tourists talking and gesturing as they sipped their espressos and cappuccinos. Hala and I just wanted a coffee to go, so that we could drink and walk, so in my broken Italian I asked whether we could have our caffe lattes “to go”. The charming (aren’t they all?) bartender smiled and said: “no, signorina. You drink here, at the bar”. Hhmm…tempting offer, so we stayed. What’s 5 extra minutes?
But as we drank our coffees, Hala and I realized that this was a way of life here. Everyone who walked in yelled “buon giorno”, and “ciao” as they walked out. The greetings weren’t directed to anyone in particular, but rather to the whole bar, as if everyone was involved. It was so wonderful to see this tiny community created, gathered around coffee and pastries at the bar, Some were talking, some were reading the paper, even if just for 10 minutes in the morning. We participated in this little ritual in each Italian city we visited, and those visits remain among the fondest memories I have of Italy and its ability to make you appreciate the beauty in the simplest, everyday things.
Italians never serve coffee in Styrofoam. It’s sacrilege. And rightly so.
by Dima Yared