Italy’s coffee is even more diverse and complicated than its pasta. The country's coffee culture dates back to the sixteenth century, when the first mysterious beans arrived in Venice on board the shipping boats coming from Middle East with their precious loads. The scene exploded in the late eighteenth century, when the invigorating drink was commonly served in dedicated venues – called Caffè – where the local intelligentsia met to converse about culture and politics.
The habit to drink it espresso – brewed to order and quite short – was born in Turin in 1884, and in the same year the first espresso machine was patented. Turin, Milan, Venice and Trieste were the coffee capitals in Northern Italy, while Naples – with its thriving cultural life and the bustling Royal Court – was the undisputed one in the South.
Apparently, it was Maria Carolina of Austria – King Ferdinand IV's spouse in 1768, Queen of Naples and Sicily – who introduced coffee to Naples. Since then, the city developed its own coffee culture, quite different from the rest of the country and with a number of distinctive features, rituals and traditions. Some of them are still observed today, and they are intimately linked to the city's daily life and culture. Wandering along the narrow streets of the Centro Storico (the old town centre full of magnificent churches and ancient buildings) you can even find small coffee stalls decorated like the presepio (the recreation of the nativity scene present in every Neapolitan house during Christmas time) or Pulcinella statues (the famous Neapolitan stock comic character) on top of coffee pots. Let's see how you can experience those peculiar habits around Naples' best ‘bars’, which is what cafés are commonly called in Italy.