Bars In Rome, Italy Are An Experience

Bars in Rome, Italy are very different from what you have probably experienced in the US. An Italian bar is a good place to get a coffee, a snack, a breakfast pastry and yes even a cocktail. They aren’t a place to hangout for hours, watch the golf match and drink from wide range of beers on tap.

Bars in Rome, Italy - Empty Espresso

Bars In Rome, Italy Are Different

Italian bars are a gathering place, a center of social life for the neighborhood and they are open to people of all ages. While this might not be obvious if you are in a more touristy area, if you are in the neighborhoods of the residents, you can hang out and do a bit of people-watching. You would see the same group of people every morning having their espresso, chit-chatting with their friends about the match last night and taking a little more time getting going in the morning.

The opposite of that experience is at the counter. This is the place to grab a quick espresso, throw back a cornetto and be on your way. Typically the food and drinks are less expensive at the counter than when you are sitting at the table, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to decide if you need a quick pick-me-up or need to sit down and relax.

One other part that is important to keep in mind is when you need to pay. If you are planning to stand at the counter it is common, especially in less tourist-filled areas, to pay first at the cash register and then present your receipt at the bar for your food and drink. If you are sitting at a table, you will get served by the wait staff, so this isn’t as important.

Bars in Rome, Italy - Full Espresso

Italian Espresso Drinks In Rome

Bars in Rome, Italy usually align with a single coffee roaster and you will notice this on their coffee cups, signs and umbrellas outside. There is no reason to avoid a bar if you don’t recognize their brand of coffee, but if you have a favorite, you can keep an eye out for one. Our favorite is Kimbo and there is a bar right near our apartment that serves it!

When ordering a coffee there is a long list of possibilities. You are probably familiar with the common espresso, cappuccino, and latte, but there are many others. You should be aware of them so you can be confident enough to try something new, but be careful. Asking for a latte will get you a glass of warm milk, so be sure to ask for a caffè latte.

If you want to skip espresso and cappuccino, here are some other drinks to consider:

  • Doppio – If you are having a little trouble getting going in the morning, a more common situation for me every day, you can ask for a caffè doppio which is basically a double shot.

  • Macchiato – I’ve had really bad versions of a caffè macchiato in the US because they overload it with milk. Macchiato means stained or marked. It has a small drop of milk foam on top of an espresso and that’s it.

  • Americano – Did you ever wonder how you can get an American style coffee in Italy even though there are no drip coffee makers? Well, you make an espresso and add hot water. In this case though, be clear that you want a caffè americano because there is a cocktail of the same name, which is delicious, but possibly not the best choice at 9:00 in the morning.

  • Corretto – A caffè corretto, which translates to corrected coffee is an espresso with a shot of alcohol, like grappa.

  • Shakerato – Ordering a Shakerato was my goal for the summer of 2023. You can probably guess from the italianized english word that it involves shaking. It’s basically an iced coffee and it was delicious!

There are many other types of espresso drinks that you can order at Bars in Italy, but I wanted to keep the list tight to help build your confidence to venture outside of your comfort zone. Also, not every bar in Italy knows how or wants to make some of the more exotic drinks. Ease into it.

Bars in Rome, Italy - Food

Italian Bar Food

An Italian bar isn’t trying to be a restaurant, so the food offerings can be limited. For breakfast you should be able to get the standards like a cornetto, pane al cioccolato or a saccottino al cioccolato. If you come by during lunch, don’t expect a full kitchen but rather some panini or a tramezzino that can be heated in a press. Our local has a Sicilian selection so we can get Arancine reheated in a microwave.

Bars In Italy Also Serve Cocktails

It is the end of the workday, you’re hungry and you can’t imagine waiting until 8:00pm for dinner. What do you do? Perhaps you can decide to meet up with friends for a drink and a light snack (Aperitivo) at your local bar. These are great places to open your palate for dinner and also do a bit of people-watching. Much like the coffee options available, there are new cocktails created all the time, both in Italy and imported from abroad, so consider starting with the most popular. My favorites are:

  • Prosecco – A simple glass of this Italian sparkling wine is very refreshing

  • Spritz – Have this mix of Prosecco and either Aperol or Campari, depending on your tastes

  • Negroni – This classic cocktail is gin, Campari and red vermouth. Don’t be too concerned about the gin because you typically have only one.

  • Americano – If the gin in a Negroni is unappealing to you, try this less boozy version. It’s a mix of Campari, red vermouth and club soda.

More Coffee Bar Experiences In Rome

Bars in Rome, Italy are likely not what you are expecting, but it is an important part of Italian culture and should be experienced during your visit. If you still want a bar in the more American tradition, there are a number of Irish bars around Rome that might be what you are looking for, but you know the saying: When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do! If you are interested in learning more about the Italian coffee bars and delicious opportunities to experience them, check out some of our other posts:

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