Italians have been importing coffee beans and perfecting the art of coffee for almost 600 years. In Italy, there are a myriad of ways to order coffee from the most simple (un caffe or un caffe normale – simply a shot of espresso) to a shakerato If you want more of a “fru fru” drink (this is espresso shaken with ice and simple syrup, often served in a martini glass). In 90% of the caffes in Florence, you will not find 24 oz iced drinks with whipped cream on top. There are a few locations in the city that cater to tourists and serve Starbucks inspired drinks, but for the most part, the caffes in Florence stick to traditional, espresso-based classics like the espresso, doppio, latte, cappucino, and macchiato. Regardless of how you like your coffee, the best coffee in Florence can be found at these incredible caffes:
This photo above displays the variety of espresso-based drink combinations one may order in Italy. Typically we go for the traditional espresso, doppio, latte, or cappuccino. Italians typically only order milk-based coffee in the morning and opt for caffe normale/espresso in the afternoon. You’ll notice that an Italian breakfast is typically nothing more than a cappuccino and a cornetto (croissant).
If you don’t know any Italian, try to remember one of the following phrases:
Any of these phrases/questions are appropriate ways to order coffee, food, wine, gelato, or virtually any other item you desire in Italy. You can walk up to the barista and ask, “Posso avere un caffe?” You’d be asking, “May I have an espresso?” The barista might reply, “Normale?” – meaning just a normal shot of espresso – to which you would reply, “Si.” Simple enough?
The barista might ask you, “Al banco o al tavolo?” This inquiry simply is clarifying whether you’d like to drink your coffee at the bar or at a table. You could certainly order “da asporto” meaning “to-go,” but it is much more common in Italy to drink your coffee at the bar or at a table. At the table, you’ll incur a cover charge (coperta), usually €2 – 3 per person. To avoid doubling the cost of your coffee, drink it “al banco.” Don’t worry if you don’t speak Italian and can’t remember these phrases. As long as you know the word “espresso”, you’ll be fine. Just nod, smile, and say, “Grazie!”
You might also be given a shot glass of sparkling water with your espresso. There is a bit of debate around whether this should be taken before the espresso to clear your palate, or after to rinse your mouth and mitigate coffee breath. There is no right or wrong way to do this but we usually have part of it before we drink our espresso and the remaining sparkling water after we finish the espresso.
There is simply no better way to say this: Ditta Artigianale has the best coffee in Florence. Their coffee is so good that we literally order it online every month and pay something like €40 for shipping. 500g of the Jump Blend espresso beans only costs €13, so if you’re in Firenze, buy a bunch of bags and bring them home with you.
The artisanal coffee roasters at Ditta Artigianale have 2 locations (one in the Oltrarno near Palazzo Pitti and one near Santa Croce). Ditta is great for many reasons. First, the beans they select from around the world are of the highest grade. Second, they are roasted to perfection. Third, they have a variety of drinks that you won’t find at most caffes in Florence. You’ll enjoy the traditional espresso, but you can also enjoy a turmeric latte or a cold brew. The caffes are littered with Breaking Bad inspired glassware so that the baristas can brew a variety of coffees in a variety of ways. Unlike most caffes in Florence, Ditta also serves coffee drinks with milk alternatives like almond and soy milk. Their iced almond milk latte is a great vegan option on a humid 100F degrees summer afternoon.
Ditta has been named Florence’s best espresso bar, the coffees have even been featured at the La Marzocco cafe in Seattle, and the proprietor, Francesco Sanapo, has recently won the 2019 Italian Cup Tasters Championship. Yeah…the coffee is THAT good.
Aside from the coffee, Ditta serves delicious breakfast (whether you want to have the Italian cornetto or the American eggs, fruit bowl, etc.). The Oltrarno location has a great back patio, but the Santa Croce location on Via Dei Neri is simply a small, indoor caffe.
Caffe Liberta (or Caffe Lib as we call it) was our first love in Florence. Back in 2011 when I (Michael) studied abroad in Florence with Pepperdine, we drank coffee and ate pastries at Caffe Lib EVERY day! Our villa was undergoing renovations, so Pepperdine paid for us to have breakfast at Caffe Lib. We simply showed up, filled out a paper with what we wanted, and the smorgasbord of coffee and pastries began. We didn’t have a price or item limit, so there were many days where I would literally have 10 pastries and a few coffees. Gluttony at it’s finest.
Over the years, we have looked through every crevice of Florence (and the world for that matter) in search of the best pastries. Still, Caffe Lib has the best pastries we have ever had. From cornettii con Nutella to pastries with pineapple, apple, berries, etc. They have it all. They also have delicious homemade cakes and cookies. “But wait! Isn’t this a coffee blog?” Yes. But you can thank us later for the pastries. Be sure to arrive early when the pastries as fresh! If you show up too late they’ll be sold out of the best ones.
Caffe Lib also has some of the strongest, most delicious Italian coffee in Florence. Their espresso is like rocket fuel and their baristas are the Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin who will take you to the moon. We, as open coffee addicts, have become quite good friends with the cashier and the baristas at Caffe Lib over the years. We know it’s quite a bit North from the center, but the coffee, pastries, and lack of tourists make it worth the walk. It’s a local’s caffe and we absolutely love it! Be sure to sit outside and soak in the local culture!
While we lived in Florence together in 2015, one of the neighborhood caffes that we loved was Marino. This unassuming caffe is run by our friend Francesco who welcomes a myriad of locals and even their dogs. It’s right next door to La Carraia (one of the best gelateria in Florence) which typically sees lines of tourists out the door, yet Marino remains a local neighboorhood gem. The coffee and cookies are delicious, and the company of Francesco is a delight. The man has one of the best, deep, Italian accents you’ll ever hear. Go in and enjoy a conversation with him and then be sure to grab a gelato at La Carraia next door. Coffee and gelato YAY!