Source Image: Alamy Gambrinus Napoli, Italy
Coffee, often synonymous with the sweet life or “la dolce vita” in Italy, stands as a remarkable manifestation of the country’s rich culture. Growing up in Italy, where coffee is more than just a beverage but a way of life, I came to realize the profound significance of coffee breaks and relationship building only in my adulthood. Let’s delve into Italy’s coffee habits to unravel why each cup holds a deeper meaning.
Italy, a densely urbanized country with 62 million people, boasts a geographical size comparable to New Mexico in the U.S., a state with only 2.2 million inhabitants. Understanding the interplay of geography and demography is crucial in grasping how cultures, social interactions, and personal space are shaped. Italians, with their communal living, gossip sessions, and physical displays of friendship, have a unique way of shaping emotional intelligence and social competence.
Coffee, deeply ingrained in Italian life, serves as a tool that enhances social acumen. It’s not merely a beverage; it’s a gateway to local social networks. It teaches you negotiations skills, managing the crowds and even building your personal brand. When you become a habitual in an Italian coffee house, the barista will give you a nickname that often relates to your profession and social standing. For example, you may be referred to as Dottore (which in Italian is a person with a college degree), or avocado, a lawyer if you appear sophisticated. In general, the barista, who is often the owner of the place, will treat you as a guest particularly when you are local and will “seduce you” using flattery titles and words…often he or she will remember what you want and make you feel ultra-special.
To navigate life effectively in Italy, one must embrace the coffee ritual, becoming part of something larger, connecting with people, including the barista, and unlocking unforeseen opportunities. This is the essence of the “dolce far niente,” the sweetness of doing nothing, which encompasses the magic of simply being.
In the heart of Italy, my top picks for coffee shops are Gambrinus in Napoli’s Piazza Plebiscito (see picture) and Cafe Zanarini near Piazza Maggiore in Bologna. These cafes enchant with a diverse range of master coffee, elegant ambiance, and welcoming flavors. In Napoli, the Caffe Shakerato, a frothy iced coffee made with a shaker, tantalizes the taste buds, while in Bologna, the Caffe Estivo, a summery coffee served with a cold creme, provides a refreshing experience.
As a final thought, let’s learn from the Italians to integrate the coffee ritual into a powerful tool for networking and trust-building. Unlike the hurried coffee consumption in America, Italians view coffee as a form of meditation and social interaction. Starting your day with a good cup of coffee becomes more than a routine; it becomes a profound way to appreciate the beauty of life, fostering connections and embracing the art of just investing in your well-being. So, put away your hectic schedule, savor the moment, and let the aroma of coffee guide you into the heart of Italian social harmony.
A final thought, when you are in Italy, try to order from the locals and if you are in the mood for an espresso order a LISCIO and if you want a cappuccino, order a CAPPUCCIO. That is how we do it.