talian coffee culture never quits. And it won’t yield to iced Frappuccinos. If you’re worried about table charges, take heart. You can get around them.
The places below are my top 5 in Rome. But buyer beware: They’re known mostly to students, who scrape the bottoms of their book bags seeking spare change for a caffeine fix. If it’s luxury you crave, don’t read on.
“Come si chiama questo bar?” I asked the white-haired man behind the counter. He peered at me over the rims of his glasses and said, “Bar.”
The no-name bar is located at Via del Governo Vecchio, 122. It’s recognizable only by the three-letter sign above the door (“Bar”). After maxing out credit cards at the nearby clothing and art stores, it’s a perfect place to spend a pittance.
Walls with vintage theater posters and photos give the place a 1930s feel. There are also black and whites of owner and sole employee Euzo — no, not Enzo — in his younger days. A cappuccino is 80 cents. If the interior doesn’t suit you, find one of the few outdoor tables and watch passing shoppers.
Credit cards not accepted. No telephone number available. What else would you expect from a bar called bar?
Bar Del Cinque
Snag one of the three outdoor tables for a picturesque and pleasant Trastevere experience. From Piazza Trilussa follow Vicolo del Cinque to no. 5. Chatting with the barista is the local clientele’s foremost pasttime. But don’t take your coffee from the bar to a outdoor table: That’s a no-no.
A caffé is priced at 70 cents, caffélatte at 80 and cappuccino at 90. You can even use a credit card — if the machine is working (ask first!) Tel. 06.580.9908.
From Via della Chiesa Nuova, follow Via del Corallo until it opens up into Piazza del Fico. Here you will find this quaint yet bustling bar with its sizable terrace under the shade of trees. The €1 table charge is worth it just to sit and enjoy the quiet outdoors, interrupted only by an occasional motorino and laughter from the surrounding tables.
A caffé costs 80 cents; cappuccinos and the caffélattes are priced at €1. Il Fico also offers a colorful lunch buffet as well as a humble selection of desserts and sandwiches. Although tourists often happen upon this spot while wandering these backstreets, the regular clientele is ever-present. Many play chess and chat. No credit cards. Tel. 06.686.5205.
Bar San Calisto
Located near popular Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, Bar San Calisto (Piazza San Calisto, 3-4-5) attracts an eclectic clientele. It’s also a hot-spot for insiders: Some evenings standing outside may be your only option.
Newcomers should not be turned off by the lack of a pleasant view or the traffic because people-watching is the guaranteed entertainment here. This establishment is known both for cheap prices and fine ice cream.
A caffé runs 70 cents and cappuccino is 80. No credit cards. Tel. 06.589.5678.
This bar gives “kicking back with a cup of joe” a good name. Off Corso Vittorio Emanuele II at Vicolo della Cancelleria, 7, The Library opened in June and is great for lounging (on a couch near the indoor fountain), playing the piano, or reading and exchanging books. The interior design is based on feng shui, so relax.
Famous for her cappuccino plus cornetto for €1, owner Daniela Ferreri (Dana) started the business to attract a friendly, international crowd. In addition to coffee, Dana also serves salads and other snacks.
For information or to plan a party, call Dana at 333.351.7581.