Trieste coffee pass
We love coffee, so when we spotted the Trieste coffee pass while visiting the central tourism office we knew it was a must do while we were here.
For a very affordable €3.00, we received a booklet with six tickets redeemable for one coffee each. A total of 8 antico cafes to choose from scattered across downtown meant easy walking and great options and since we would be in town for a while we could use them up without being over caffeinated.
The relationship that Trieste has with coffee is deep, going back to the eighteenth century when the port accepted coffee beans shipped in from all over the world to supply the Austro-Hungarian empire, in particular, Vienna. Soon it was the fourth largest city in the empire and Trieste opened up some fabulous coffee houses that luckily for us are preserved like time capsules.
Poets and thinkers
Often frequented by poets and thinkers of the time Trieste attracted many among whom the most famous would undoubtedly be James Joyce who is said to have frequented Caffè San Marco and many others in town.
In 1933 the world famous Illy opened its doors and still operates today in Trieste. Illy is in virtually every cafe in town and would be what we would mostly drink at the five Antico cafes we would visit. Illy red is the standard roast but we were told that the locals love the Illy black which is their strongest roast. In fact, we would soon learn Triestini love their coffee strong and intense.
In Italy a coffee break is short and sweet, a quick interaction usually at a counter or bar based around a shot of espresso consumed in about forty seconds. In Trieste where coffee runs like blood through the veins of the locals, the experience is even more abbreviated by the local tradition of drinking their coffee from a glass or “bicchiere”. Cooling more quickly the coffee is tipped back even faster but other than that it appears to be a personal preference.
Coffee with style
However you like it, Trieste drinks coffee with style and if you want to keep up, ordering like a local will point you in the right direction. A “caffè Nero” will get you espresso in a cup. A “Nero in B” (biccherie) is an espresso in a small glass. A “Capo” is a caffè macchiato in a cup, “Capo in B” for the same in a glass. A “caffè gocciato” is an espresso with just a drop of steamed milk and finally a “Deca” or “Deca in B” is a decaf in a glass.
Caffè San Marco
Armed with the lingo we were ready and not one of the antico cafes would disappoint with an amazing cup of coffee served from fantastic bars still authentic and steeped in ambiance from a bygone era.
One of our favourites is undoubtedly Caffè San Marco, a little on its own over on Via Battisti, it had us make the walk more than once. Saved from demolition in 2013 it was overhauled and now includes a cool bookstore.
The servers all look great in their uniforms pulling shots of espresso from gorgeous old copper espresso machines. Standing elbow to elbow with a warm pastry, a strong Capo steeping in the vibe of this old place is how I would love to start every morning.
Pasticceria La Bomboniera
Pasticceria La Bomboniera was another magical stop with its untouched original shop fixtures and decor. We perched on velvet cushioned stools squeezed into the corner of this tiny pastry shop sipping a coffee and eating amazing pastries.
Caffè Tommaseo is a must stop also, right down by the waterfront. The oldest cafe in town it has been kept up to absolute pristine standards and is the fanciest of all the cafes we visited. With the bar at the back of a large dining room facing the water, we had a chance to take in the ritzy room and staff going about their business. The barista here was very nice and spoke perfect English having lived in the United States for a number of years. It was she who explained how the locals like their coffee very strong and four coffees a day is not out of the question.
Caffè Stella Polare and Caffè Torinese
Caffè Stella Polare and Caffè Torinese were the other two antico cafes we managed to get to while in Trieste with Caffè Torinese winning with its jewel box-like interior including original wood paneling and Venetian chandelier.