It truly is no understatement that coffee is the lifeblood of Italians. Every second shop is a cafe selling you the greatest coffee in the world and every action in life can be interrupted for the quintessential espresso.
On numerous occasions while in Florence when we would never think of having coffee or we are just too busy the Italian people stop and make room for just that – a relaxing coffee.
While waiting in the queue for my Permesso di Soggiorno I was advised by the official that I had plenty of waiting time to duck out and grab a coffee – to save me waiting at the Questura uncaffeinated.
I am a lover of the Italian espresso in its purest form, so much so that in Italy I can order a ‘caffé normale’ – which westerners would call simply an espresso or at times a short black. The very term ‘normale‘ makes you feel like you fit in. And standing at the bar with all of the locals dropping in for the daily – or presumably hourly caffeine fix – makes you feel like one of the crowd.
Really the best part of living in Florence was finding the local cafe that would have your coffee order on the counter before you had even entered the cafe. For us we found one across the Piazza d’Indipendenza – on the corner of Via National and Piazza d’Indipendenza – this became our daily ritual. The cafe owners would see us crossing the piazza and our coffee was there ready and waiting when we stepped inside.
Another bonus of the coffee loving Italians is the more than reasonable price of coffee. Travel anywhere in the world and your coffee can average around $5 – that’s Aussie dollars. In Italy no matter where we went an espresso was one euro. We even found one place in Rome where it was 80 euro centimes. If you find it for more don’t pay and move onto somewhere else and also don’t sit down and have your coffee at a table, you’ll pay three time as much for table service.
So we have established that coffee is an institution, a way of life in Italy and Florence is no different. But no matter where I went foreigners always told me never order a cappuccino after 11am. I don’t drink milk so this was never an issue for me and you can freely drink espresso at any time of day you please.
I have to disagree with the comments about cappuccinos though, even though I never ordered a cappuccino I never saw any cafe owner refuse to serve one after 11am. Really all that you are giving away by ordering one is that you are not Italian and chances are they already knew that when you walked in the door anyway.
As long as the cafe is open it is serving coffee, so you should be able to order whatever type of coffee you desire – well save for a Starbucks pumpkin latte. The problem might be running into closed doors, we often found that cafes would be closed on Sundays and there are many Italian public holidays where cafes are shut as well. The cafe at piazza d’indipendenza was open every day though – perhaps closed on christmas day though.
On a side note though as I have many coffee loving Melburnians tell me that they don’t like coffee in Italy, which I can’t seem to understand. It is worth mentioning that Italian coffee is for espressos and not for milky coffee. Even cappuccinos in Italy are not as milky as you can get them in Melbourne. So keep in mind the coffee in Italy is served the Italian way.