Paris may be seen by some people as the home of the coffee bar, but a good Roman espresso can hold its own against anything the French can offer.
There are coffee bars all over Rome, from luxurious cafés serving coffee along with the little cakes known as pasticcini, to the rough-and-ready kiosks serving up espresso to commuters in the larger metro stations.
Many cafés provide tables, especially in the piazzas and tourist areas. Remember that if you sit down to order your coffee, it will usually cost much more; sometimes two or three times the price that it does at the bar. This isn't a scam, though; the price difference is quite normal, and the café should have prices listed somewhere for both bar and table service. (Remember there's no need to tip, unless you particularly feel like leaving a coin.)
If you're buying at the bar, the usual approach is to go first to the cash desk and pay for your drink: they'll give you a receipt, which you hand over to the barrista and tell him what you'd like. If you're sat at a table, just order from the waiter when he comes over, and you'll pay him when he brings your drink.
Whether you stand or sit, though, prices can vary widely from one café to the next. As can the quality of the coffee: the best thing to do is to try a few places until you find one where they'll give you a coffee that suits your taste in surroundings you like at a price you think fair.
Types of Coffee
The espresso, a single shot of coffee served either in a small cup or in a glass (in vietro), is the staple of Roman coffee-drinking. It should be hot, thick, and very, very short, and is an excellent way to get started in the morning. There's not much sense in lingering over an espresso, so it's best drunk standing at the bar, where it's likely to cost between about 80 cents and a euro.
In Rome, the cappuccino is very much a morning coffee. Have it first thing in the morning with your cornetto, but don't ask for one after dinner in a restaurant, or waiter and fellow diners alike will think you're crazy for wanting a heavy, milky drink on top of a full meal.
A long coffee. If you just ask for a coffee, you'll get an espresso, so ask for an americano if you want an American / British mug of coffee.
One popular way of drinking espresso, especially to cure a hangover, is to take it with a shot of alcohol stirred in, often grappa or Fernet Branca. This is known as a caffè corretto (literally, a 'corrected coffee').
Recommended Cafés in Rome
Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè
Piazza Sant’Eustachio, 82
Tel. (+39) 06 6880 2048
The selling point at Sant'Eustachio is the sugar they add to the coffee: rather than stir it in at the end, they add it during the brewing process, though the exact technique is hidden from view by a shield bolted onto the coffee machine. You can also buy their own branded beans to take home.