explore Rome, Italy

What to drink in Rome, Italy

Coffee

Italians don’t like to eat meals or having their coffee while strolling or sitting; a coffee is, actually, just a few minutes break and you’ll find that most locals drink it standing in front of the counter.

What foreigners erroneously call “espresso” is just plain coffee, and is more commonly just referred to as caffè. Caffè doppio means a double shot of espresso, while caffè macchiato is espresso ‘marked’ with a dab of steamed milk, like a small cappuccino. An americano, or lungo – the one to order if you like filter coffee – is espresso diluted with hot water and is not drunk much by Italians. Decaffeinato is self-explanatory, but it is often referred to by the common brand-name Caffè Hag. A caffè corretto is an espresso with some alcoholic drink, like sambuca (distilled from the elder tree, similar to the anisette), anisette, brandy, cognac, grappa (grape spirit) or whatever. Usually the barmen add about a spoon of the “correction”.

Latte in Italian is just… milk. If you’re expecting coffee in that glass, you should ask for a caffellatte. A latte macchiato (meaning “marked”) is steamed milk stained with a smaller shot of espresso.

Cappuccino is well known outside of Italy, but be warned: it is considered very un-classy and quite disgusting to order one after 11 AM (and certainly during or after a meal). Cappuccino doesn’t help the digestion as an espresso is supposed to do because it’s too heavy – especially after a large meal.

Wine and water

House wines (vini della casa) are almost always drinkable and inexpensive. Most trattorie would not be caught dead serving poor wine. You may often find a bottle of wine on the table for you. Believe it or not: this bottle will be less expensive than a glass in other parts of the world. This does not always apply to those places that look really tourist-trap-like! Slightly better quality wines are usually sold at a relatively small mark-up on shop prices. The best wines are marked as D.O.C. (Registered Designation of Origin) or D.O.C.G. (Registered and Guaranteed Designation of Origin) — they are not necessarily expensive.

Italians, despite the romanticized stereotype, don’t usually sit outside cafés drinking a glass of wine and watching the world go by – this is actually something foreign tourists do! Wine is supposed to be served along with (usually, important) meals: it’s not something you’d drink every day. Also – when eating pizza Italians prefer drinking beer, or a Coke, or just a glass of water.

Speaking of which, most restaurants serve bottled water with their meals; it comes usually in 1 liter bottles and can be had normale/liscia/naturale (still water) or gassata/frizzante (sparkling water). No ice is usually served in the water, even in the summer like American customers can expect. Few restaurants offer the free water in the pitcher or the in-house “purified” water in the pitcher usually customized with their logo.

Water is free at designated water fountains, called nasoni (big noses) or simply fontanelle (small fountains). Not only the water’s very fresh and good, but it comes from the famous springs scattered throughout the Lazio region – it is perfectly safe to drink. If you carry an empty bottle, fill it up for the rest of the day; look for the drinking fountain with constant running water, plug the bottom hole, and cool water will shoot up from a smaller hole on top of the tap. Don’t put your lips round the hole at the bottom, as stray dogs tend to like to get a drink.

Before dinner

Pre-dinner drinks (aperitivi) accompanied with small hors d’oeuvres (antipasti) are very popular with the chic yuppies in their 20s-30s, who crowd the area around piazza delle Coppelle (behind the Parliament) and piazza di Pietra (near the Chamber of Commerce). Younger generations sprawl around the square and streets of Campo de’ Fiori for a beer and a chat, while tourists and some posh locals alike sit to drink in the narrow streets beyond the Pantheon (piazza Pasquino and via del Governo Vecchio).

Clubbing & Nightlife

Rome is a large Art city, densely populated and overcrowded. As a result nightlife tends to be scattered in different districts, random and confusing.

As for discos, there are many; unfortunately, the city is huge and it’s not very easy to find them, unless you have a very good guide. The best way to start is from the most renowned ones: the Piper, the Gilda and the Alien – all of which are run by the Midra Srl. Their website is nothing to write home about but can be used to discover telephone numbers and addresses. Gilda is near the Spanish Steps, while the others aren’t too far from Termini; during summer they close to move to the seaside of Fregene (north of Fiumicino and Ostia), where Gilda on the Beach can be found.

In recent years the Aperitivo formula, very popular in Milan, has gained ground also in Rome. It’s a pre-dinner maany bars offer. Customer usually buy a drink (usually a cocktail, very popular is Mohito) and a free buffet is included. You can taste everything until you feel you still have some space in your belly.