The coffee is truly superb but what really sets the Italian coffee scene apart from others is the experience in the caffe bar. Typically it would go like this. Enter the shop, go to the cashier, make your order and pay for it. The going rate for a great espresso is a meager 1 Euro. A small word of warning, if you order cappuccino or any other coffee heavy on the milk after 10:30 AM, you could well be ostracized, as these are only considered breakfast drinks. Take your receipt over to the bar and give it to the barista. About 3 minutes later you will get your coffee and a small glass of water served to you while you stand at at the bar. Drink up and enjoy, usually less then 10 minutes later you are on your way. There are no take away cups, you take it away in your veins. Repeat as necessary throughout the day. This system totally cuts through the bullsh*t. There are usually table and chairs available if you wanted to linger over your coffee with friends, however the coffee price could be 2 or 3 times higher for the same drink standing at the bar.
For me, the quintessence of the Italian coffee scene is Caffe Terzi in Bologna. I arrived in the city on a Saturday afternoon and had a couple of hours to enjoy before I could check into my Airbnb. I ventured to the city center which has the main streets switched to walking streets for the weekend crowds, nice. I ordered a drink at a nondescript cafe and plunked myself down. It is not that common there but this place happened to have working wifi. I took a quick look at Yelp to see what was around for eating/drinking and lo and behold, I was very close to Caffe Terzi. I had heard about it as a must for coffee lovers in Italy, I virtually sprinted there as it was close to closing time.
I found the caffe up a small side street. The place is narrow with the expansive coffee bar running almost the length of it with a few larger sit-down tables in the back. It was absolutely heaving inside with people lined up a few deep all along the bar, This indeed reminded me of that other bar scene. The staff is superb and I was up at the bar to order fairly quickly. I wasn’t sure what to order and I watched what others were ordering for ideas. The barista serving me, I believe her name is Elena, suggested a signature drink; Caffe Terzi. It is espresso, a bit of quality chocolate, and a secret blend of exotic spices. I was all over this. I was set up with a small glass of sparkling water on my little chunk of the bar as I waited on the coffee. A couple of minutes and I was served my coffee in fine china with instructions to stir first, then drink and enjoy. The moment this coffee hit my taste buds was revelatory: beautiful coffee flavour only surpassed only by its supreme smoothness with not even a whisper of bitterness. There is a bit of sweetness from the chocolate and the spices make all the flavours pop brilliantly. Definitely one of the best coffees of my life. I happily paid €1.80 on my way out, though I was sad to hear there would be no Terzi for me the next day, as they are closed Sunday.
I eagerly showed up again on Monday morning for more. The same barista served me and much to my surprise, she asked me if I wanted the same as on Saturday. This place does a huge volume of customers, to think she not only remembered me but remembered what I ordered, is impressive I started with a plain espresso, also great, then the remarkable Caffe Terzi for dessert. I was departing the next morning and asked on my way out if they would be open as I heard rumblings about some sort of a holiday that day. They were indeed going to be closed, devastating! She suggested I best come back later which of course I did. Late afternoon I wasn’t sure what to order, a little late for their famous cappuccino, so I ordered the Caffe Terzi again. Just after I made the order, I saw Elena working intently over a coffee, coaxing the oil of an orange peel into the cup. I asked quickly and was able to change my order to this one. Wow, I would have never imagined the flavour of orange and coffee marrying so happily. There were little cubes of what I think were preserved orange in the bottom. It was another home run.
AddressVia Guglielmo Oberdan, 10/d, 40126 Bologna, Italy
Monday- Saturday8:00 am – 6:00 pm