In the Eternal city there is no shortage of good coffee, but would you know where to go for what most locals consider the best coffee in Rome?
If you were to ask coffee lovers about their best recommendation for your caffeine fix in Rome, you would most likely be directed to a small establishment right in the centre of town, between Piazza del Pantheon and Piazza Navona: il Caffe Sant Eustachio. Located in the homonymous Piazza Sant’Eustachio, this family run coffee shop – or bar, as the Italians would say – opened its doors in 1938 and from its very early days made a name for itself because of the quality of the coffee served:
it is a pleasant venue, still decorated with the original decor for the 1930s and the coffee there is indeed special, as you can guess from the long queue you can often find there!
(for additional recommendations about the best places for coffee in Rome, see also the info box at the end of this post)
The best coffee in Rome: Eustachio caffe’
Famous for being one of the best places in Rome for coffee and considered by many the absolute best coffee in town, the Eustachio cafe started as a small family establishment and soon became the favourite mid-morning stop for the members of the Senate, nearby.
The Ricci brothers, now running the caffe’, are passionate about the quality of what they serve and over the years have developed a secret recipe that makes their coffee blend absolutely unique: buying only high-quality coffee from certified fair trade farms around the world, they carry out the roasting of the beans in-house using a traditional roasting technique that uses no preservatives and enhances the quality of the coffee. Their roasting machine has been in use since 1948 and can be seen through a glass in the space at the back of the shop: definitely something worth seeing! The coffee they make can be enjoyed at the bar, like the locals or at one of the few outdoor table but they also sell their blend dry so you can bring home a taste of Rome, in which case you be carrying home an incredible looking little package, this:
I am showing a picture of the package not just because I find it quite elegant, but also because of the symbol on it: far from being just the logo of the cafe, the stag with the cross between its antlers is carrier of an interesting story that has its roots in ancient Christian times and concerns the square the cafe now opens onto. If you step just outside the door and look up, to the roof of the church in front, you will see another version of it:
The same stag looks down from the roof of the beautiful basilica in front of the caffe’, overlooking the square dedicated, like the name suggests, to Saint Eustachio.
Want to try the coffee but not sure how to order? You may enjoy this post by Eo stories ‘How to order and drink coffee in Italy‘
SANT EUSTACHIO SQUARE AND CHURCH: the legend
Tradition reports that Eustachio or Placidus, as he was called before his conversion to Christianity, was born in the first half of the first-century a.D. He was a Roman and a pagan and like many male members of the Roman upper-class, he grew up in the army, reaching the high commanding grade of magister militum. In those years, Rome was at the height of its expansion and Emperor Trajan sent Placidus to lead Roman legions to Asia Minor, where he distinguished himself for courage and heroism.
But one day, he had a vision that changed his life: while hunting, he encountered a stag with a cross shining between its horns.
Struck by the vision, Placidus decided to convert to Christianity and got himself and his family members baptised into the new faith. In that occasion, he abandoned his roman name and took on a new one, Eustachio (meaning: he who produces good crops, or good ears of wheat, literally) that he carried for the rest of his life. But conversion to Christianity was not an act free from consequences in those times and Eustachio, after many years of mixed fortunes, eventually had to face the Roman establishment and its anti-Christian views. In pagan Rome, religion and politics were strictly connected and to prove someone’s loyalty towards the State and the Roman cause it was usual to demand that they offered a sacrifice to the Gods.
Emperor Adrian, in occasion of a great celebration over the latest Roman victories, demanded to his general to partake in the festivities and the sacrificial ritual, but Eustachio, strong in his faith, refused and was therefore condemned to an agonising death along with his wife and son. This refusal and fearless pride in his belief made him a Christian martyr and then a Saint: the church dedicated to him it is said to be built over the ruins of his family home and has, on its roof, the stag’s head and the cross that marked Eustachio’s conversion. In front of it, a frescoed wall depicts also his history.
If you are a coffee lover and want to learn more about coffee in Rome, you might enjoy a specialised coffee tour. I took one in one of my many trips to Rome and, even as a local, enjoyed it immensely and found it truly informative You can find info and make a booking directly with the providers here (they have many tours to choose from)
In the middle of the summer, a great alternative to espresso is granita di caffe‘, or iced coffee. The best granita in Rome can be found at caffe‘ Tazza d’oro in front of the Pantheon: it is served with whipped cream and it to die for!
If rather than coffee you want to try tiramisu (coffee based) your best address is cafe Greco, near the Spanish steps
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