The Best in Rome
Rome's Cafés: IT'S NOT ABOUT THE COFFEE
contributions by Kelsey Lisle and and Christine D. Elliker
Also see: It's All About the Coffee
One of the great pleasures of Rome is the ritual of the café, a home away from home where regulars go to read the daily paper, meet friends, make calls from their cell phones— even take business meetings. For the casual visitor, Rome's many cafés provide a place to rest, relax, and, if you choose wisely, to enjoy the view of spectacular buildings and squares while watching the parade of nuns and priests, tourists and residents, dogs and cats, jugglers and street musicians — and who knows what else.
Three magnificent Roman piazze, all tourist magnets, mobbed at all hours of the day and night — except the early morning, when a coffee at one of the many cafés, can still be a great pleasure. In Piazza Navona, we like Caffe Barocco for its perfect view of Bernini’s great fountain of the rivers, Tre Scalini, for its historic appeal. In Campo de' Fiori or the Pantheon your choice will depend on the crowd level. Try to find a table with a view of the piazza not totally blocked by a group of tourists attentively listening to their flag-bearing guide.
Just across from the Palazzo Medici, atop the Pincio hill on the Trinita dei Monte, with a view of the Roman rooftops, this pleasant café-restaurant is open continuously from first coffee of the morning till last nightcap of the night. In warmer weather, find a table in the lovely garden. There's a wide selection of coffee specialties, ice creams and wines. A full menu is offered at lunch and dinner and the food is fine, but the story here is the outstanding location and the atmosphere. €€
Viale Trinita dei Monti tel. 06.678 5678 (top of the Spanish Steps)
The back room in this old-fashioned Roman coffee house makes a quiet mid-afternoon retreat for meetings, conversation, or solitary contemplation. In addition to the usual selection of coffees, Caffé Doria offers a wide selection of teas, infusions and tisanes. And in the warmer months there are cold frappes and granitas. A sidedoor opens of the caffé opens onto the magnificent Palazzo Doria Pamphili, which is now a museum.
Via della Gatta, 1/a (Pantheon-Piazza Venezia)
The Piazza Farnese, gloriously spacious and free of cars, is dominated by the 16th century Palazzo Farnese, which was designed by the great renaissance architect Sangallo and later modified by Michaelangelo. The café’s tables extend into the piazza, and with a convenient newsstand just next to it, it’s an ideal spot for breakfast and the newspaper, a late morning refresher cup, or an afternoon snack. Popular with Romans and tourists alike.
Piazza Farnese (Campo de' Fiori)
Just a few paces from Campo de' Fiori, Barnum offers its patrons a truly relaxing visit. With its free wifi and affordable dishes, it is one of the very few cafes in Rome that allows its visitors to sit and unwind while they enjoy their coffee. You'll never feel rushed out, as the owner, Daniele, always makes room for newcomers. The space, decorated in a circus motif, becomes the perfect backdrop for local art exhibitions and the occasional nighttime d.j. sets. Come for breakfast pastries or lunch time pasta or better yet, wait until 7 p.m. when the cafe becomes a bar, serving cocktails and wine.
Via del Pellegrino 87 tel. 39 06 64760483
The historic spot has nearly been reduced to a Roman tourist stop, but it bears mentioning for its elegant atmosphere — until recently all the waiters were formally dressed in tails. The coffee is over priced, but it's fun to sit on the old red velvet settees where some of Rome's most famous visitors, including Goethe and Byron, once sipped espresso.
Via Condotti, 86 (Spanish Steps) CLOSED temporarily for renovation.
Caffé di Marzio
With a view of the magnificient fourth-century Chiesa di Santa Maria di Trastevere and the piazza’s central fountain, this friendly caffé has one of the best locations in Rome. Although it’s often crowded with tourists during the high season, regulars make it a home away from home in the morning hours, when they come to meet friends, make calls on their cell phones, read the paper and rest up from the daily shopping. In the evening, when the church is lit up in all its glory, the gold mosaics of its façade glistening, the café is a wonderful spot to enjoy an aperitivo or digestivo, and the ever changing spectacle of activity in the piazza, which on weekend nights can include street theater of all kinds.
Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere (Trastevere)
As Trastevere continues its resolute march towards total gentrification, traditional cafes are replaced by sleek, arty establishments like this one. With a blackboard menu offering a small but adequate selection of dishes, Baylon is for an early American-style breakfast from 6 am to a buffet lunch to Argentine-style tapas, tea to dinner, and finally, a nightcap, closing at 2 am. The fixed-price Sunday brunch at €15 features live music.
They pride themselves on their wine selection, mixed cocktails, and pastries. Free WiFi.
Via di San Francesco a Ripa, 151 tel 06 581 4275
Tourists and locals alike relax at tiny sidewalk tables in the shade of a leafy tree. In the winter, the inside room is funky and atmospheric, but you can sit outside most of the year, thanks to the enormous “funghi” the heat lamps that hover over the tables when the temperature drops. Salads and sandwiches are available at lunch. As the day turns to night, the café turns into a bar, with a full list of cocktails and a respectable wine list. From October to April, there’s live jazz on Thursday and Sunday nights.
Piazza di San Egidio 12 (Trastevere)
Bar della Pace
In the piazza facing Bramante's magnificent cloister, now a church and a museum, the cafe has long been a meeting place for Rome's glitterati. At the outside tables, you can enjoy the view — both of the cloisters and of the stylish passing crowd. Inside you can enjoy the art deco décor with its old fixtures and bronze statues.
Coffee, drinks, snacks lunch.
Via della Pace 4-7 (Piazza Navona)
You have your choice of three restaurant/bars in Rome's Piazza di Pietra, but this is our favorite because of its location, away from traffic in the middle of the square with a view of the Tempio di Adriano, which dates back to the first century BC. The place is terminally trendy — a flat screen with video projections over the bar, walls-lined with style-conscious books on the order of Andy Warhol and Lou Reed coffee-table numbers, comfortable, sixties-style couches. The wait staff is young and beautiful and full of attitude. It’s a pleasant stop for an aperitivo — there’s an appetizer buffet from 7:30 on. And in the mornings they serve a breakfast of coffees, fruit smoothies, quiche and baked goods. Or stop in late —the place stays open until 2 am — and have a stuffed baked potato, soup or salad or a dessert. One of the owners, a model, has added a sprinkling of items from her native Sweden to the menu.
Piazza di Pietra, 42 Closed Monday. (Pantheon)
This modern and attractive Roman cafe, cocktail bar and restaurant, offers service at all hours of the day and night. The front of the caffé has a tantalizing counter loaded with baked goodies, and in the anteroom, books and magazines are sold. A great place for a coffee, cocktail or late meal, peaceful enough so you can carry on a good conversation.
Open from 8 am to 1 am. Closed Sunday.
Via delle Coppelle 16a (Pantheon) tel 06.68392065
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