Where to drink the best coffee in Italy

6 destinations for espresso lovers

Italy is the homeland of espresso coffee and one of the countries where it is consumed the most. Italians have a love relationship with coffee, evident in the bars and squares of the Bel paese. Fine blends and intoxicating scents make espresso drinking a real social ritual!

The Ferryhopper Team has created a list of Italian cities where you can drink the best espresso. Explore them below!

Disclaimer: for the purposes of this article, bar = coffee place (in most cases). It's how the Italians say it (we asked), and this is all about espresso in Italy, so...

Coffee machine for two cups

Excellent coffee ready for two

The best Italian destinations to enjoy a good espresso

Let’s go on a coffee trip starting from Southern Italy all the way to the northern part of the country! Here are 6 must-see destinations in Italy to drink espresso of superb quality. 

1) Na tazzulella ‘e cafè in Naples 

A tiny cup of coffee or “na tazzuela ‘e cafe” is what you have to drink in Naples! The vibrant city is one of the most important ones when it comes to coffee tradition.

In Naples, drinking coffee is a real cult, and the bars of the Campania capital bear testimony to this! From very early in the morning, the bar machines start working and attract passers-by with the fresh coffee smell.

Locals say that coffee in Naples is as good as it gets wherever you try it, and it's true! In fact, most bars do not use the modern machines with all the buttons and stuff, but the traditional ones with the lever.

For one of the best cups in town, a must-visit is Caffè Gambrinus. This elegant bar exists since 1860 and is frequented by intellectuals and prominent figures. 

Good to know: according to tradition, the cup must be burning hot. So be careful when you bring it to your mouth to avoid bad surprises!

And how can we not mention the Neapolitan “suspended coffee” tradition? This ancient custom consists in paying for 2 coffee cups but having only 1, leaving the other to be consumed later by someone else. Whoever cannot afford an espresso can ask whether there is a sospeso available and would be served a coffee for free.

So, a trip to Naples is perfect not only to discover its alleys, art, monuments and the imposing Vesuvius from the seafront, but for the unique moments you can experience with an espresso and some delicious sweets, such as sfogliatella and babà!

Tip: from Naples you can continue your adventure in search of the perfect coffee and discover the islands of the Gulf of Naples! Learn about the Naples - Capri ferry route and book your tickets with a few clicks!

2) Espresso + dessert in Palermo

Palermo is second after Naples when it comes to coffee consumption in Italy! The Sicilian capital is not only sea, baroque and natural beauty, but has a great food and drinks heritage

Before starting your tour of the city center to admire churches, palaces and local markets, you should go to Antico Caffè Spinnato! This 19th century bar is located a few steps from the famous Teatro Massimo, and it’s a real city lounge.

In addition to this historic bar, another must when it comes to cafes in Palermo is the “coffee of Baldo” in Vittorio Street. The cafe doesn't even have a sign outside, but they prepare their coffee with care and a true passion.

Want another reason to visit Palermo? Thanks to its mild climate, you can enjoy your espresso outdoors in the fresh air almost year-round!

Tip: pair your espresso with a cannoli (pastry dough filled with cream) for breakfast and you won't regret it!

Good to know: Palermo is home to the Caffè Morettino Museum, where you can admire 1000 coffee processing tools from all over the world. Don't miss it!

Espresso and Sicilian cannoli

Espresso accompanied by a traditional Sicilian cannoli

3) Rome and its charming historic bars

Rome is a real open-air museum and visitors fall in love with the city again and again. However, not everyone knows that the Italian capital also has the oldest cafes in Italy!

Strolling through the streets of the “Eternal City” and stopping by its bars is a must, not only for the quality of blends offered, but also for the beauty of its cafes. One of the most famous is the Antico Caffè Greco in Condotti Street, founded in 1760. 

This cafe was a meeting point for artists and intellectuals (including Stendhal, Wagner, Goethe and Casanova) and today it also hosts 300 paintings to admire while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.

Also, don’t miss the Caffè Canova that was frequently visited by Federico Fellini, the Caffè Sant'Eustachio with its historic roaster and the Caffè Trombetta close to the Termini railway station.

Useful info: did you know you can reach Rome by ferry too? The port of Civitavecchia is less than 1 hour from the Italian capital city and you can get there by car, train or bus!

4) Following the coffee-steps of Casanova in Venice

With its romantic atmosphere, Venice is a unique place in the world: the canals, the gondolas and the famous carnival attract millions of visitors every year.

But you should also know that the history of coffee in Italy is linked to the floating city of Venice. The magical St Mark's Square is where locals and visitors meet, and it's full of bars and restaurants.

First-time visitors to Venice should visit Caffè Florian, the oldest in Europe. Located under the arcades of the Procuratie Nuove, it was inaugurated in 1720 and is one of the symbols of the city.

It’s where Casanova wooed the ladies and was Goldoni’s inspiration for his comedy The coffee house. Sitting at the tables of Caffè Florian you can feel the atmosphere of the past and enjoy a high quality espresso with some traditional Zaletti cookies!

Outdoor cafe with red coffee table in Rome

A nice bar in the alleys of the center of Rome

5) A coffee with a Rococo flavor in Genoa

Genoa is a city of art and history with streets, buildings and parks that retain the charm of the Ancient Maritime Republic intact. Before a visit to the famous Aquarium of Genoa or a walk through the alleys of the historic center, you cannot but stop at Caffè Pasticceria Mangini.

Located in front of the Prefecture, it has an elegant Rococo style that will fascinate you. Here, you can enjoy a nice Robusta coffee blend accompanied by traditional cakes, pastries and chocolate pralines.

Alongside traditional places, in the historic center of Genoa there is also a modern bar that enhances coffee in all its forms: Tazze Pazze Caffetteria Gourmet. This family-run bar is a point of reference in Genoa due to its excellent blends and impeccable espresso.

Useful info: from Genoa you can travel by ferry to Spain. Have a look at the ferry route from the port of Genoa to Barcelona and combine great coffee with a delicious Catalan cream!

6) Trieste: a city steeped in coffee

For many travelers, Trieste is just a bridge to reach Croatia or Slovenia, but actually it is a place that hides an elegant and avant-garde soul.

Not everyone knows that the history of Trieste is well-linked to coffee and that the capital of the Friuli region is the most important Italian coffee import hub

Strolling through the narrow streets of Trieste you will smell the scent of coffee coming from the historic bars of the city. Among the most famous, you shouldn’t miss Caffè Tommaseo (since 1830), Caffè San Marco (since 1914) and Caffè degli Specchi (since 1839).

All these places are linked to stories, myths and encounters that testify the importance of coffee for this city. The people of Trieste have even coined their own coffee slang to differentiate between coffee varieties and order it in a specific way. So, if you want an espresso, you will have to order a “Nero”, while if you want a macchiato, it will be a “Capo”.

Outdoor seating at a cafe in Trieste

Trieste locals enjoying their breakfast on a sunny winter day

Useful tips to enjoy your espresso in Italy

For Italians, coffee is not just any drink, so it is important to know a few tips and tricks to enjoy it at its best during your trip.

Here are 5 tips to enjoy your espresso in the best way:

  1. It is always better to drink an espresso at the bar. This is not only to better savor its aromas in the shortest possible time, but also because it’s part of a convivial lifestyle!
  2. If you want to have your coffee with dessert or a snack, it should always follow the main meal. Enjoy it only after you finish your food!
  3. Always drink a glass of water before your coffee to remove the flavor of freshly consumed food or other drinks. This way, you will cleanse your palate properly.
  4. If you hate it when your coffee goes cold, bear in mind that sugar-free coffee retains its heat for longer. By not adding sugar or milk, you’ll be able to sip it in peace for a longer time.
  5. Before drinking your espresso, bring the cup to your nose and take in its aromas. This is a key part of the experience!

Espresso cups on the bar of a cafe in Italy

Espresso served at the bar

Can you smell that? It’s the intoxicating scent of freshly ground Italian espresso beans! With Ferryhopper, you can plan your trip and travel to Naples, Palermo, Rome, Venice, Genoa and Trieste and enjoy a warm cup of coffee. Book your ferry tickets in just a few clicks and start packing!

Tip: here are the latest ferry timetables for Italy to get you started!