Although we take our daily coffee ritual for granted, the history of coffee is actually quite adventurous, and Venice played a significant role. Coffee comes from roasted coffea berries. It made a long journey from Africa, through the Near East, before making an appearance in Western Europe. Nowadays, coffee in Venice is a big part of Venetian culture.
Thanks to the strong commercial bonds between the Ottoman Empire and the Most Serene Republic, coffee exports quickly made their way north. Coffee was immediately popular, and the first coffeehouse in Western Europe opened in St. Mark’s Square in 1645. Even though the original business no longer exists today, Venice still holds the oldest coffeehouse in operation: Caffè Florian in Piazza San Marco.
Coffee is as universal as the water in the canals. Today, having “un caffè” means drinking an espresso at the bar. When you drink coffee outside of the house, it’s customary to drink it quickly. Just give your order to the barista at the espresso bar, and in a few minutes, your espresso is brewed and served in a small cup. It must have its “cap”, the brownish creamy upper layer of the espresso. Drink your espresso quickly, just like the locals do!
Italians consume about 340,000 tons of coffee per year, so we rank only at the 6th place in Europe. At home, it is a different story. All households possess a macchinetta, a coffee machine invented in the 1930s by the engineer Alfonso Bialetti. Recently, however, this machine has been suffering a loss in popularity and sales due to the invention of Keurigs and other similar machines.
In Venice, good espresso and all its variations can be found at nearly all of the bars and cafes around the city. If you want to enjoy your coffee slowly, pick a cafe with a pleasant table outdoors – but remember, you will pay extra for sitting and even more if you are in the most attractive places. In Piazza San Marco, the most beautiful coffeehouses are undoubtedly Florian, Lavena and Quadri, and sitting at one of their outdoor tables can cost you up to €7.50 for an espresso. Round the corner in the Piazzetta, facing the water, is Caffè Al Todaro.
If you are content with a regular view but still want to have great coffee, the choices are nearly unlimited. Rosa Salva is a delicious pastry shop near the Piazza in call Fiubera. You can find Caffè del Doge in a small alley near the Rialto Bridge. A few meters beyond that, close to the Frari church, you’ll find Caffè Dersut. Near the Jewish Ghetto, there is Torrefazione Cannaregio. Some coffee shops actually roast their own coffee, and in Italy, we call those shops torrefazione.
A Prontopia local is available at all times to answer your questions on Italian coffee: book a connection to get in-person help.