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Report 943: Italy Alone

By DMae from Alaska, Summer 2005

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Page 4 of 9: My affair with the café life of Rome

photo by DMae

Bar del Fico

After my first day in Monti I was feeling much better about my decision to not rent an apartment in the centro storico. The main drawback I found was that I didn't want to go home for the afternoon 'pausa', and spent my down time in bars (coffee shops) instead. The advantage to this: I was where I wanted to be. The disadvantage: spending way too many euro on caffè while sitting outside watching Rome go by. 'Il dolce far niente' (the sweetness of doing nothing), became a pattern for me as I sat in one of my favorite bars in the afternoon, sketching, writing, and sipping caffè freddo.

A member of the Slow Talk message board offered me the advice to find "my" neighborhood bar. I actually found three in the Monti area that I liked. A bit like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: the first was too noisy (on Via Boschetto), the second was not so sunny (hidden by a building), but the third, Il Faraone, on Piazza Santa Maria dei Monti, was just right. In the evenings I had a great view of the fountain, the comings and goings of the neighborhood, arguments, passionate speech, and the local ragazzi playing football against the church door. In short: the city life I was wanting to be a small part of, if only for a few weeks. A few days after I arrived I found, on Via Cavour, a "stand at the bar and drink your caffè" bar that I began to frequent in the mornings before I headed out, as it was close to the bus stop.

Some of the bars I loved most seemed to appear by serendipity. I knew they existed from my reading and planning, but it was a treat to walk around a corner and see one of the places I had read about.

Some bars I loved for their locations. The Caffè Farnese is one of those. Located on busy Via dei Baullari which connects Piazza Farnese to Campo de’Fiore, I found there is a whole lot of people-watching to do. The view of the Palazzo Farnese is quite lovely. Another favorite for location was the Antico Caffè della Pace. I really loved looking at Santa Maria della Pace and sitting outside. A very peaceful place to spend an afternoon.

A bar I loved for ambiance is the Bar del Fico. It sits on a tiny side street and is shaded by a beautiful fig tree. Of all the bars I visited, this one is where I felt most at home; however, it was a long way from my apartment in Monti and I did not get to visit there as much as I wanted. I will visit Bar del Fico any time I am in Rome.

I was surprised to be charmed by Trastevere. The neighborhood had not appeared on my list as it was a more expensive area, so I had overlooked it until I took a walk over the Gianicolo. I ended up at Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. There I discovered Caffè di Marzio. I loved this bar so much that I made trips back to Trastevere just so I would have a reason to come here!

There were other bars I enjoyed for other reasons. Some bars I loved for the views. The Caffè Capitolino is wonderful for looking out at Rome and the Bar Gianicolo has great views from the opposite side of the city. Also, there is a lovely café on the back side of the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II which has a great view over the Foro Romano and the rione of Monti. When in the Pantheon area I balanced visits to Caffè Sant'Eustachio and Tazza d'Oro Caffè. I ended up buying coffee beans from both of these to mail home.

There were many other bars I enjoyed, but unfortunately, I do not remember all the names. I have many fond memories like sitting at a bar, looking at the Pantheon and drinking prosecco on my last night in Rome. I remember another bar when, desperate for a bathroom, I found not only a rest stop but delightful people and ended up spending a few hours sitting and visiting.

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