I am going to go ahead and just say it: most of the coffee in Italy is bad. Some of it is terrible. However, there is some hope that things are changing so I keep a running list of where to find the best coffee in Rome.
Despite what you may have heard, Italian coffee is not always good. In Rome, it is often served too hot or even burnt. Many cafes have signed deals with specific coffee companies to provide beans at a low cost (or even in exchange for a free espresso machine). This Rome coffee tends to be of lower quality and it is usually something you can taste. After a few cups of horrible espresso, you might start to think that the best coffee in Rome is pretty substandard.
€1-€1.20 per espresso might seem like a steal, but it is actually pricy when you think about the tiny amount you are consuming (30 ml). That makes it on par with paying €25-€30 for a 750ml bottle of wine. If you were going to pay that much for wine, I imagine you would that bottle to be at least palatable.
It should be the same with coffee in Rome. Ideally, you should be served something fruity, complex, and delicious. It should at the very least be a great cup – not something that makes you cringe with bitterness.
Coffee culture is deeply engrained in Italian life. Taking a coffee is something you do for pleasure, usually with friends, and involves a good deal of chatting with the baristas or your companions in addition to drinking the coffee itself.
Coffee in Rome, however, is usually a quick experience. You should know that the prices are regulated if you are drinking at the bar, but sitting down is a privilege you pay for. For example, an espresso will never be more than €1.50 if you have it while standing. However, if you sit down you will pay for “table service” and this might be as high as €8 a cappuccino if you want a view on the Pantheon. There are also very few places in the city where you are invited to buy one coffee and then occupy a table for the next several hours while you slave away at your laptop.
I fully suggest that you embrace the local coffee culture (and skip the new Rome Starbucks), but I think that you should have a great coffee at the same time.
So-called “third wave” or specialty coffee is still fighting an upward battle in the Italian market. This coffee is clearly of better quality, which means that it sometimes comes at a slightly higher price point. That small surcharge is more than worth it for the beauty of the cup, and will still be much cheaper than fancy coffee in other parts of the world.
To help you find nirvana in your morning cup, here is where to drink the best coffee in Rome:
Best Coffee in Rome
Faro quickly emerged as the place for specialty coffee in Rome. The cool coffee bar has absolutely nailed the international vibe and is a great place to drink caffe, sample their non-traditional menu, and even work for a bit in a light and airy space. The signature coffee is great and made on a Marzocco machine. However, you can delve as deeply as you like and also pick out rarer roasts from their “espresso menu” which acts a bit like a wine list for coffee. This is a great place to purchase coffee as well, and they feature roasteries from Europe and occasionally even Australia (which is where one of the co-owners honed his coffee skills). The only drawback is that it might be a bit outside the usually trafficked areas, but Faro is pretty close to Termini Station and is worth the trip to sample some of the best coffee in Rome.
Set right in the heart of Rome, Barnum is one of the best places to drink coffee in the Eternal City. The cozy space is well designed and pretty much the ideal little café you have in mind when dreaming of European adventures. The bar uses roasts from Le Piantagioni del Caffe – an Italian roastery based in Livorno, and has a great barista! In addition to really great coffee, Barnum is also known for its fabulous cocktails and has a lunch and dinner menu that is always evolving.
My love for Tram Depot is no secret. This is my local go-to spot for amazing Rome coffee partially because it is located in my neighborhood, Testaccio. The bar has been built inside a 100-year-old tram car and only has outdoor seating. This means that it is only open from March to October, when the weather is warm enough to be outside. The bar is charming (though it lacks a restroom so you can’t stay too long), however, I really come for the coffee. Tram Depot also uses Le Piantagioni del Caffe, and has been playing around with different espresso machines to find the absolute best. I miss the aesthetic of their old Marzocco but the Faema is slowly winning me over.
The Roscioli family is all about deliciousness. Different members own a restaurant, a bakery, and even a wine tasting experience. All are fabulous, so it is no surprise that Roscioli Caffe has some of the best coffee in Rome. They have a custom-made espresso machine and regularly change up their roasts. The space is minuscule so you really have to elbow your way to the bar, but it is worth it for a true espresso. Don’t miss the mini-maritozzi pastries, either.
This teeny-tiny coffee bar is next to Rome’s farmer’s market, so you will often find me here stopping for a cappuccino on Sundays. The coffee bar/pasticerria has jewel-like pastries that are an excellent accompaniment to the Le Piantagioni del Caffe coffee. The coffee is made on a Marzocco and there are plenty of more substantial cornetti and even savory sandwiches if you want to make a meal out of it.
Making the most of a small space, Pergamino is a specialty coffee bar near the Vatican. It is going to be dealing with some competition when Starbucks opens in the same square in a few months, but I promise you will find higher quality here. The cafe buys from small, internationally acclaimed roasters and even has a milk philosophy. All of the ingredients that go into the drinks are carefully selected. This is also the only place I know of in Rome where you can get nitro coffee. If you like the roast, they also sell small bags to take home.
Historic Rome Coffee Bars
In addition to the Rome coffee bars listed above, there are also several historic cafes around the city that are worth mentioning. These include Sant’Eustachio, which is famous but I personally find a bit pretentious. There is also Antico Caffé Greco near the Spanish Steps. This is Rome’s oldest coffee bar, and it is sadly facing potential closure because of a fight over high rents in the area.
One of my favorites is Tazza d’Oro next to the Pantheon. This is where I come for a granita al caffe con panna (frozen coffee with fresh whipped cream). Sciascia Caffe in Prati is also worth a stop for the melted chocolate that can be added to your cup of coffee.
I am sure there are other thoughts on where to find the best coffee in Rome so feel free to comment with your top picks!