The Great Trieste Coffee Crawl
One of my first trips of 2017 was to visit my friend Lauren, who lives in the province of Pordenone in northeastern Italy. Lauren and I have a lot in common, but the highlights include our shared love of travel and coffee. And for me, there's no better combination than travel and coffee, especially when it involves a coffee crawl of Trieste, Italy.
You may or may not have heard of Trieste; I hadn't until a few months ago, when Lauren first introduced the idea of a coffee crawl around the city. Warning: coffee history nerd alert ahead!
After doing a bit of research, I discovered that Trieste has a long history as a port city on the northeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, close to the borders of Slovenia and Croatia. Since it's pre-Roman origin, Trieste has changed hands between countries so many times it has developed its own fascinating culture and language. One of the biggest examples of this is in Trieste's unique coffee culture!
According to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region's tourism website, Trieste's coffee culture developed during the 18th century, which was while the city was under the Austro-Hungarian empire. The historic cafés around the city show the influence of Viennese cafés in their beautifully preserved architectural design and decor. Coffee is described as a "flagship product" of the city . . . and did you know that the famous Italian coffee company, Illy, started in Trieste?
Okay, coffee history geek out over. Back to your regularly scheduled blogging.
Trieste is about a 1.5 hour drive from Lauren's town, Aviano, and about a 2 hour drive from the city of Venice--perfect for a day trip. If you're into coffee, put this on your travel list!
Here's the itinerary for The Great Trieste Coffee Crawl.
Lauren had three different Trieste coffee guides, all of which recommend a variety of coffee shops throughout the city. I found 5 that were recommended on all three guides, which made the perfect itinerary for our coffee crawl!
First things first: go to the Trieste tourist information center, the Agenzia Turismo FVG, and pick up a Trieste Coffee Lover's guide. It costs €3 and includes a map, eight recommended coffee shops, and six vouchers for one free cup of coffee (which must be consumed at the bar--it's not free if you sit at a table). It's a great deal, since you're essentially paying €0,50 per coffee.
Stop #1 | Caffè degli Specchi
Here begins your Trieste coffee education. The coffee language is different in Trieste--for example, an espresso is called a nero. I recommend trying a capo (pronounced "cap-o", unlike a guitar capo. It's espresso with a dash of milk foam.), which is a Trieste classic, or a capo in B. The "B" stands for "bicchiere", the Italian word for glass; therefore it's a capo served in a glass, instead of a tiny cup. I decided to order a capo at almost every stop so I could compare them, but feel free to mix it up!
Stop #2 | Caffè Tommaseo
This is one of Lauren's favorites, for the grandiose ambiance in the seated area of the cafe. It's very sophisticated though the bar has a slightly more relaxed vibe. They also serve Illy brand coffee, which makes for a very good capo. I give it the "Most Beautiful Interior" superlative of our crawl.
Stop #3 | Antico Caffè Torinese
This was one of my favorites; I loved the more cozy, intimate feel of this small cafe. I also enjoyed the friendly service, quality of the capo, and the decor. If I lived nearby, I would probably make this my usual coffee shop.
Stop #4 | Caffè Stella Polare
This stop wins the "Most Beautiful Exterior" superlative of our crawl. Though it has nice decor, a good location in a shopping district, and a beautiful exterior that would be lovely for sitting outside in the summertime, neither Lauren or I were particularly impressed with the coffee here. I did enjoy the Italian pastry selection here (but Lauren felt it was rather average).
Stop #5 | Caffè San Marco
I could write an entire blog post about this cafe, but I'll try to keep it short . . . In our respective lineups, Lauren and I both picked this one to tie for first place. Because of the location and experience, it's the perfect cafe to end on! I loved that it's part traditional cafe and part bookshop, which is unusual in Italy. This is a great place to stop and enjoy an Aperol spritz (you get complimentary snacks like olives, nuts, and crackers if you order an alcoholic drink) before going to the bar to order that final coffee, of course.
Over the course of the day, we drank 5 cups of good, strong Italian espresso. As much as I love coffee, my body doesn't always have the same enthusiasm for it as I do. BUT I planned ahead, which was so worth it.
Bonus tips for surviving your Italian coffee crawl:
- If you've got a sensitive stomach like me, prep your digestive system ahead of time. I drink a cup of hot water with a shot of apple cider vinegar, a spoonful of honey (bonus points if it's local), and fresh lemon juice. Sounds gross, but I swear by it!
- Stay hydrated before, during, and after the crawl. I kept a water bottle with me in my purse to sip between stops.
- Eat a solid breakfast before you go. Make sure you eat enough protein to keep you feeling stabilized throughout the day.
- It's ok to take breaks and stop for food if you feel jittery. Listen to your body.
- Check the weather and bring extra layers if it's cold. Since Trieste is on the coast, the wind can be biting. A hat, scarf, and mittens go a long way during the winter!
- As always when exploring cities in Europe, wear comfortable walking shoes.