The perfect coffee: Notes from Rome

On my quest to find amazing dishes + drinks around the world, this guest post by Nichole Manna takes us to Rome, where coffee is a way of life.—Tracey

When I went to Italy last summer to study, I knew I would taste great wine. But I honestly didn’t think I’d also have great coffee. We landed in Rome on May 14, picked our hotel rooms, mingled with classmates and then immediately hit the nearest coffee spot: Tazza D’Oro. Just a short walk from Hotel Navona, just past the historic Pantheon, Tazza D’Oro would soon become our morning stop before seeing the sights for the next five days—and mid-day stops, pre-dinner stops and occasionally “just for the heck of it.”

On the first day my American mind was still spinning its red, white and blue wheels. I immediately thought the coffee would cost as much as it does at Starbucks, would be made like a Starbucks coffee and would have to be ordered the way one does at Starbucks. Fortunately, I was wrong. Ordering un caffè in Rome is a unique experience.

Tazza D’Oro sits on the left side of a corner facing the Pantheon. There are two doors. Through the first one you see a bar and a couple of tables. Through the second door, you see a cashier and a few gifts to take home. I stepped through the second door and stared at the menu until the woman behind the counter looked anxious.

I walked up to the counter and nervously mumbled, “Un caffè per favore.” She gave me a kind smile, a nod and asked for 1 euro. My mouth almost dropped. That’s only $1.50 for an actual cup of coffee, unheard of where I live.

I handed her my euro and she handed me a slip of white paper on which my order was written. I walked to the bar and handed the slip to the barista. He quickly whipped up my caffè and slid it across the table with some natural sugar.

I poured just a bit of sugar in the caffè and looked around for the creamer. I panicked for a second, reminding myself that I wasn’t in a coffee shop back home, and took the first of many amazing sips of coffee.

It was smooth. It was warm. It gave me a rush of energy. Unlike the burnt and scolding hot coffee we often pay way far too much for—this coffee was perfect.

Nichole Manna is a Journalism student at Middle Tennessee State University who will be graduating in December 2012. In 2011 she studied in Italy. Nichole is currently interning at

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