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Six of the best espresso bars in Rome

Coffee is more than a morning pick-me-up in Rome — it’s the lifeblood of the city. Whatever time of day, hunt down these local haunts for a caffeine fix in the Italian capital. From busy bars to a quiet micro-bakery, here's where to go for an espresso.

A barista serves espresso at Sant’Eustachio il Caffè.

Photograph by Francesco Lastrucci
Photographs By Francesco Lastrucci
Published 22 Nov 2021, 15:00 GMT, Updated 23 Nov 2021, 11:16 GMT

While they might opt for a cappuccino with their breakfast pastry, Italians swear by espresso. This bold, bitter little elixir is what fuels the nation, from the school run in the morning right through to the evenings, when it’s sipped slowly after dinner. Most Italians order and drink theirs standing at the bar — it’s often a quick affair on the way to work in the morning — but it’s far from a fleeting necessity and is a much-cherished daily ritual. The bars in which they’re served are all part of the experience, too: meeting places, extensions of the front room. Every neighbourhood has several bars, and locals are fiercely loyal to theirs. If you’re staying in the Italian capital, it’s possible to join in with the local rhythm yourself — if you like the look of a bar, go in. If you enjoy it, return the next day, and the day after that, by which time you’ll be greeted as warmly as a local. But whatever you do, don’t call the drink an ‘expresso’ — it’s ‘espresso’ with an ‘s’.

1. Bar Fratelli Capone

Run efficiently with serious irreverence by brothers — or ‘fratelli’ — Gigi and Nando, this small, archetypal bar in Piazza Testaccio is always busy. The gold bags of beans upended in the grinders are pure arabica from one of Rome’s oldest roasters, Tintori, and the brothers conjur consistently good espresso from the cafe’s well-worn machines. Piazza Testaccio 30

2. Sciascia Caffè

The team at Sciascia are so aware of their establishment’s art deco appeal that they even sell their porcelain cups at the till. This is a splendorous place for a coffee, low lit by green-glass lamps under which serious and skilled baristas turn out spot-on, crema-topped espresso (often with a shot of chocolate if you wish) from their excellent house blend, also available to buy at the counter.

3. Roscioli Caffè

Long, narrow and popular with locals and tourists, this is the sister bar to the sleek Roscioli deli and kitchen and down-to-earth Forno bakery — both of which are just a short stroll away, as is the Piazza Campo de’ Fiori. The atmosphere of this busy cafe is an ideal mixture of its siblings: the coffee is serious, whether espresso or cappuccino, and chef Rodrigo Bernoni’s pastries are delicate and exquisite. If you’re visiting in the run-up to Easter, try the quaresimali: a type of yeasted bun with dried fruit.

4. Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè

While the throng of a crowded bar can be part of the pleasure here, this cafe’s handsome 1940s vibe is best admired first thing in the morning or later in the day, when it’s quieter (it’s open until after midnight). The cafe also roasts its own coffee; the house blend is a medium-roast arabica. The singularity here is that sugar is added by the barista, so if you prefer yours without, ask for ‘amaro’ (without sugar).

5. Casa Manfredi

The Torinese coffee empire Lavazza has a new venture — 1895 by Lavazza Coffee Designers is a range of rare blends from small producers, which the company then supplies to selected bars, including Casa Manfredi. The coffee is exceptional at this luminous bar on a tree-lined street near Palatine Hill, particularly the single-blend — try it with one of the cafe’s fruit and custard tarts. 

6. Marigold Roma

On a quiet street in the Ostiense district, Marigold is a stylish micro-bakery and restaurant run by a Calabrian and Danish couple. Their commitment to sourcing the finest produce is extraordinary, and reflected in their smooth, rich and fruity house blend from organic farms in Papua New Guinea, Peru, Colombia and Rwanda. It’s more expensive than others, but you can sip in the knowledge that farmers, workers and waiters are being paid fairly. 

Read more: 20 of Europe's best cafes

Published in the November 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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