A sideways look at Italian – or maybe Marchigiani – bars and caffes

Do you have an ideal caffé-bar? Do you visualize yourself sitting comfortably in a beautiful piazza, with a charming waiter/ress, watching the world go past, sipping a delicious strong coffee, or maybe a freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice, or a chilled prosecco? Well, bad luck, you’re not Italian and you are certainly not a Marchigiano.

Italians like lots of different sorts of bars. They do like smart bars of the kind I have described, and there are some good ones in Le Marche – the Caffe Meletti (enjoy the quaint “English” or click on the tricolore) in Ascoli Piceno, for instance, or the Caffè Meridiano in Senigallia, or the Caffè del Duca in Mondavio. You can  get virtually a free meal in some bars with the delicious free stuzzichini, or nibbles. (They are fantastic in Sicily, and the bar opposite the duomo in Modena does very good ones too.)

Italians also like neighbourhood caffè-bars – somewhere in a fairly quiet street where the children can go by themselves for an ice cream (an ice lolly, ghiacciolo, is fine, it doesn’t have to be scooped out of a metal container in a special refrigerated counter), or men can have a drink while their wives prepare a meal, or women can meet for a chat. They don’t mind if the bars are small and dark with uncomfortable plastic chairs, or if the first thing that meets the eye is a stand of Chiclets or potato crisps. That’s the sort of thing you might want to buy in a caffè-bar. Freshly squeezed fruit juice is expensive anyway, so why waste your money?

And they don’t exactly like, but need, pit stops for workers where they can fill up on caffeine. (The coffee is always good,wherever you are.)

Teenagers like somewhere with tolerant staff where they can hang out after school.

Men like a bar where they can be on their own without women and talk about sport. Read Stefano Benni’s Bar Sport (link to Italian version).

Italians don’t mind if the bar staff are sullen or fake deferential with other people – they know the staff anyway, or if they are birds of passage it doesn’t matter. I’ll never forget the bored waiter in Fabriano saying “Desidera?” or the barmaid in Marotta who was obviously annoyed that strangers had come into her bar. So be prepared, especially if you are visiting a small hilltown where the centre is fairly quiet anyway.

Italian caffès have a lot of problems;no more national service, no homesick young men with nowhere to go; the mobile phone (no one comes in to use the phone now) and the recession. Italians know how to economise, and, according to the figures in the local paper, they are cutting down on cappuccini and aperitivi. You can tell that the heart has just gone out of some caffè-owners.

About An Englishwoman in Italy

I have a holiday home in Corinaldo in the province of Ancona in the Marche region of Italy. I have been going there since 1993 and would like to share my love and experience of the area. I speak Italian. Ho una casa di villeggiatura a Corinaldo nella provincia di Ancona, Regione Marche. Frequento Corinaldo da 1993 e desidero condividere i miei affetto e esperienza della zona con gli altri. Gli italiani sono sinceramente invitati a correggere gli sbagli.
This entry was posted in Ascoli Piceno, Corinaldo, Fabriano, Food and drink, Hill towns, Marotta, Modena, Mondavio, Vacation and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A sideways look at Italian – or maybe Marchigiani – bars and caffes

  1. Debra Kolkka says:

    My favourite cafe/bar in the world is Giacosa in Florence. I go there as soon as I arrive in Florence…..every time.

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  2. Lina says:

    My bar di fiducia is Rino’s in San Lorenzo in Campo. It is one of those situated down an unassuming side street, but adjacent to a children’s playground and an indoor tennis club. It is run by a lovely young couple, Rino and his wife Laura. Here you are assured of a warm greeting on first name terms.

    The clientele varies at different times of the day. Morning mums for lingering chats after the school run; workers (men and women) for a quick caffeine fix (once saw a group of well coiffured elderly ladies here for the same reason before an organised day out). Old men play briscola and young play the fruit machines. Evenings, it is mostly youths and young families; sipping wine slowly, or eating ice cream with gusto, or both. Some evenings you might be lucky to catch a live band and if you’re really lucky that band might be “Kite”.

    Laura is happy to practise her English and tolerates my “pigeon” Italian. Rino can talk football for Italy, but his saving grace is his non-alcoholic cocktail, better than the basement bar at the London Hilton and so magnificent it is a magnet for all eyes as it is served to your table.

    We have been known to come here three times in one day.

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    • alysb says:

      Thanks Lina. We are not far from San Lorenzo in Campo and I love the beautiful romanesque church and the view from the Rocca – so we will try the non-alcoholic cocktail next time we are in the area (“nei pressi”).

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