Il Caffe – An Italian Treasure

By Joanne Natale Spigonardo

September 6, 2022

While coffee dates back to first being discovered in Ethiopia in the 9th Century, it became available in Italy in the 16th century and imported through the port of Venice. Venice has a strong background in the coffee industry because of its prime location on the Adriatic Sea. History tells us that coffee was consumed heavily in Arab nations so that worshipers could stay awake during late night prayers. It was and still is a staple throughout the Middle East and Europe.

In Italy it was available for the rich and sold in pharmacies. Soon it became available for the middle classes and made primarily at home. The rise of coffee as a pass time in fancy Italian bars and hotels became prevalent in the 1950s and 60s. You may remember watching La Dolce Vita the fabulous Fellini movie and marveling at the beautiful people sitting at the once famous Cafe de Paris on Via Veneto. Sipping Espresso at a choice location was an event to see and be seen. It still is today.

Cafe de Paris, Rome

Coffee is also a part of haute cuisine. Espresso flavor became and is a part of eclectic pastries and candy. Coffee and chocolate go hand in hand to create some of our most beloved desserts. The most famous one perhaps being Tira mi Su, a delicious pick me up.

As a child, I began drinking caffe latte at age 2. I’m not very tall, so maybe it did stunt my growth, but it was worth it! Coffee is one of my favorite things generally, but specifically it is an ultimate experience for me when drinking coffee in Italy. Most Italians go to the local corner bar for their morning fix. The standard is a strong caffe ristretto or cappuccino and these are consumed quickly standing up before work . No true Italian in Italy or elsewhere will ever drink a cappuccino after 11AM. This is insulting to Italians and a reminder that you are not really embracing their culture. The leisurely espresso is consumed in late afternoon at a spectacular outdoor café, sitting down with a gelato, and this is followed by people watching, taking in the runway of beautiful Italian fashion.

Coffee culture in America has exploded in the new millennium, but it greatly differs from Italian coffee culture. There is a common ground in that drinking coffee is a social opportunity. Italian coffee culture is a hidden treasure, and like all pass times in Italy, it is entrenched in taking time to enjoy simple pleasures, and savoring life in all its wonderful and surprising ways. Hope you enjoy a buon caffe today!

About the Author:

Joanne has many years of experience in travel to Italy, Italian art, literature, film, history, wine, and cuisine. She is a lover of nature and beauty.  She is an advocate for Italian immigrant women, and the author of White Widow, which is available on Amazon.  For more information about Joanne please visit her LinkedIn page:

Published by spigonaj

Joanne Spigonardo Business Development Consultant Specializing in Sustainability, Higher Education, Career Management, and Public Relations In her former roles, Joanne served as Senior Associate Director at the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) at Wharton. Joanne was also part of the Communications Office. She held positions as business manager of the Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists and for the Wharton Alumni Magazine. Joanne also served as the media relations coordinator. When with Alitalia Airlines, Joanne worked as a sales representative. Joanne graduated from The University of Pennsylvania with a BA and later graduated from the Wharton Aresty Institute of Executive Education. She has a strong background in development, management, marketing, and Italian language and culture. As a Wharton Mentor, she coached new employees on professional development, and is active in Penn’s Grievance panels. Joanne was on the board of governors for the University Club. Joanne is chair of the Delaware County Penn Alumni Interview Program and oversees alumni volunteers. As an alum of Penn and Wharton, and also a parent of two Penn graduates, she is a strong advocate in promoting Penn. At Wharton IGEL, Joanne had been in partnership with GreenBiz, Sustainable Brands, the Ethical Corporation, Pira Packaging International, Public Relations Society of America, the Green Sports Alliance, World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, the Italian Consulate, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Sonoma County Winegrowers Association, and the Nature Conservancy, as well as, many other NGO and government offices. She has brokered hundreds of corporate relationships for Wharton. Joanne is the author of her book, White Widow, published on Kindle and Amazon. The book is a fictional novel about 19th-20th Century Italian immigrants.

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