un cafe lungo macchiato caldo nella tazza grande
I’m sure I’m not alone when I suggest that a day seems somehow incomplete without a cup of strong coffee in the morning, rounded out by a glass of red wine in the evening. Thank God I’m living in Italy where both are cheap and plentiful. As a writer on a budget, this seriously enhances my quality of life.
As many words as Eskimos have for snow, there are coffee drinks in Italy. OK, well maybe not quite as many, but more than you’d think. And none of the Starbucks variety, thankfully. I like my Starbucks back at home as much as the next person but there really is no place for it here – for good reason.
At the bar, which here means a café where you can get a little something to eat, wine, cocktails or coffee, it’s easy to feel a bit intimidated sauntering up to the serious-coffee-drinking marble counter where everyone stands to have a quick cup, before being on their way. I admit, I am a very experienced traveler, I even speak Italian, but I stuck to my safe and easy cappuccino for a long time, with the occasional wild and crazy café (espresso, with 2 sugars, Italian style) thrown in. Because frankly, there’s never a convenient sign to tell you all the different coffee drinks available (because everyone already knows) and let’s be honest, no one ever likes to look like they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to ordering a cup of coffee.
1 litre of Malbech in a 2 litre bottle (and yes, I only bought 1!)
Chiara, my Italian teacher, recently gave me a little lesson in coffee drinking in Italy that I am eternally grateful for, although my addiction might get even worse. I’m not going to recreate a coffee drinking list that has already been done many times on other sites. In fact, this site has the best list I found with nifty photos too: www.msadventuresinitaly.com. But I will just say that my coffee of choice from now on is a Café Lungo Macchiato Caldo in tazza grande, which basically translates to a long espresso (not a double, long means the water just passes through the grinds longer), with a bit of hot milk in a big cup. Divine.
Moving on to the other bookend of the day, wine, you can of course choose from endless bottles of wonderful Italian wine, based on region and grape, at your local Enoteca or supermarket. But even there, it can get expensive for a good bottle of wine and it’s often hard to decipher whether what you’re buying might actually turn out to be any good or not. I have wasted too much money on mediocre bottles of wine, even here in Italy.
However, I recently discovered a shop that sells Vino Sfuso, which is basically wine pumped from the spigot into bring-your- own-jug, or bottle, right around the corner from where I live. Many locals buy their wine this way, as well as restaurant and bar owners who buy it and serve it as the house wine. It’s not the best in the world, but eminently drinkable and priced at an average of €1.50 per litre, it’s astonishingly cheap. And there is just something just so other wordly, especially for Americans or Brits, about taking your own bottle down to the shop and filling it up with wine. Potentially dangerous, but fun! And for those on a budget (other than writers), you cannot go wrong.
actor-writer-director, improviser, mother, traveler, life renegade