Category Archives: espresso

Wake me up in Firenze

By Vivian Farmer



Espresso from Mama Gina in Florence. The cup and saucers here are fancier than those found in many coffee bars. Photo by Vivian Farmer

FLORENCE, Italy– Coffee is serious business in Italy. The drink is ubiquitous, as easily found as wine. The winding streets are filled with cramped stores where patrons stand at the counter and enjoy the bitter drink and in most restaurants there is a shiny espresso machine crammed somewhere behind the counter, waiting to make after lunch or diner espressos.

The caffeinated drinks in Italy aren’t what Americans call coffee but instead, espresso. But there are differences in other ways. To find a place to order an espresso, look for a “bar,” not a café. If you want to a get an alcoholic drink, look for a “pub,” and for the best prices look for coffee bars that are not near main tourist sites.


Outside Caffe Riasoli, Florence. Photo by Vivian Farmer


Once you find a coffee bar, head for the register to pay first. And remember, a little Italian goes a long way: to order an espresso and croissant, say: vorrei un caffè e un cornetto. If that’s too much to remember, make liberal use of vorrei (I would like) and grazie (thank you). Or, depending on how much trouble you were, grazie mille (thanks a million). Now you can elbow your way to the counter and hand the barista your receipt. A quick grazie and your drink is in your hands.

But don’t run off to your nearest bar just yet! You need to know what to order. In Italy, there is a time limit to ordering milky coffee drinks. Giulio Piotti, a barista at Caffè Ricasoli, says that Italians only drink cappuccinos in the morning.

“If you wake up late, 11am, or if it’s Sunday, you can drink one [cappuccino],” Piotti says. Other than that, cappuccinos, café lattes, and any other coffee with milk is for breakfast only.

If you don’t want to go wrong, order “un caffè”. A caffè is an espresso shot. It is dark and bitter and served in a small cup on a saucer. The caffè shot is a quick interlude in an Italian’s daily life. Some hurried Italians down their caffè with one quick gulp. Most take two to three sips and move on to the next part of their day.

“It’s quick but you take the coffee with calm. Thirty seconds to a minute, but it’s calm.” Piotti says Italians stop into a bar and drink a caffè for a break meant to be a relaxing pause. Italians take these pauses throughout the day. Piotti drinks about five caffeinated drinks a day: two at breakfast, then one at lunch, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.

In Florence if you want a to-go cup of cappuccino at noon, you can get one, but that’s not how the Italians drink their coffee. So pause, drink a caffé, and enjoy the brief calm.

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Filed under espresso, Florence, MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism

An espresso driven culture

DSCN0535DSCN0537Rachel Trujillo

Florence, Italy– Located in the San Lorenzo Market on the upper level, the Mercato Centrale serves as a place for locals and tourists to shop for fresh produce as well as grab a quick bite to eat. Everything from the meat market, fish market, cheese station and bakery surround the small café with cafeteria-style tables and chairs.

A loud whooshing of a steam wand frothing while the espresso grinder churns the beans into a delicate powder indicates the process of a cappuccino being crafted. Things are more simple here than at Starbucks. Bottles of artificially flavored, sugary syrups are nowhere is sight. You do not choose your coffee size. Rather, espresso—always espresso-sized— is allowed to stand alone among a mere handful of traditional drinks.

The store clerk raises an eyebrow as we order a cappuccino, considered a breakfast drink, after 10 a.m. On his right, a barista turns around, “con zucchero?” she asks. Sugar, for some, can tame the bitterness of a freshly pulled shot.

This approach is not unique to the Central Market café however. On each corner and down every narrow street in Florence espresso is being offered in a uniform fashion. On the upper shelving of each coffee shop, large stacks of liqueur and alcohol bottles impersonate a bar. The Mercato Centrale store clerk explained these as extras to the standard pick-me-up of espresso. He painted the picture of an elderly man who comes in late at night looking to add Sambuca to his drink before heading home. It was rather casual and perhaps just another norm in their espresso driven culture.

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Filed under espresso, Florence, journalism