Espresso tour of Naples

Often known for its grit and traffic, Naples happens to be one of the oldest cities in the western world, so it’s easy to forgive the crumbling buildings that blend into the 2,500-year-old ruins. To see Naples means whittling away your evening drinking stellar wines, produced with grapes cultivated here since Pompeii was a bustling town. But don’t be fooled by its ancient feel. The city’s top layer is uniquely modern, and you’ll soon realise this when you spend the greater part of your day ordering caffé. The espresso machine wasn’t invented until the early 1900s and the six hundred Italian roasters today didn’t begin to craft their blends until the 1960s when the tin can was invented. The beverage became all the rage, and now, most Neapolitans drink between three and six cups per day. Usually sipped from a thumb size tazzina, southern Italian coffee blends have a reputation for their strong bittersweet flavors. But only in Naples will you find an incredible number of modern coffee innovations. New twists surprise visitors on every street corner. If the choices are too overwhelming, stop at one or all of these five Naples cafés and order their signature coffee delights.

  1. Caffetteria dell’Arte Antica

    Via Tribunali 30, Naples

    If you’re heading to the Centro Storico with its medieval streets, go to this corner coffee shop with a counter in the front and tables in the back. Ask for a dessert turned into a beverage: the Caffé Tiramisu. The barista coats a martini glass with thick lines of tiramisu syrup squirted from a bottle. He then adds chopped nuts, pours a healthy shot of espresso into the glass and sprays a large helping of whipped cream up to the rim. Cocoa and more nuts sprinkle the top. It’s everything you could ever want in a drink and a dessert.

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  2. Intra Moenia

    Piazza Bellini 70, Naples

    This café-cum-bookstore sits right next to the excavated Greek foundations of the city in Piazza Bellini. Frequented by students and artists, you can often hear a soprano practicing her scales from a window of the music conservatory nearby. Order the Caffé al Bacio or “coffee with a kiss.” The barista coats a brandy glass with warm nutella, then adds a healthy shot of espresso and a dollop of milk foam. Cocoa flakes are then sprinkled on the top.

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  3. Moccia

    Via San Pasquale a Chiaia 21/22, Naples

    One block away from the modern art museum, PAN or Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, and established in 1922, Café Moccia offers an international coffee twist: the Caffé Brasiliano. A small glass cup is filled with an espresso shot, before a half teaspoon of cacao is sprinkled on the top, as well as zucchero-crema; a delight added to caffé throughout the city. Zucchero-crema is sugar and espresso blended together in a mixer for several minutes until it’s fluffy. The concoction is meant to sweeten the caffé in a richer way than simply using sugar. Next, milk foam is poured on to the rim of the cup and cacao sprinkled on the top for garnish.

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  4. Bar Brasiliano

    Galleria Umberto I 78, Naples

    This café is inside the Galleria Umberto I, the glass dome of which has architects visiting from far and wide to study its design. The gallery itself touts high-end clothing stores and pastry stalls. Bar Brasiliano’s reigning favorite is Caffé Nocciola or “nut coffee”. The barista sprinkles nuts on the bottom, then daubs the glass cup with zucchero-cream. He then squeezes some nut syrup inside and pours a shot of espresso on top. Wait just a few moments to watch the zucchero-cream rise to the top as the espresso shot sinks.

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  5. Cafe Gambrinus

    Via Chiaia 1-2, Naples

    The baristas are a little brusque, but this is said to be the oldest continuously running business establishment in the city. Once a café-chantant (or singing café) in the style of Parisian coffee houses, it hosted politicians, painters, writers and famous actors, including Oscar Wilde and Benito Mussolini. Decked out with modern art on the walls, you can sit outside to people watch and order the Neapolitan original sfogliatelle (puff pastry with vanilla and orange infused ricotta cheese). Their signature coffee twist is, of course, the Caffé Gambrinus. It’s made very simply with a shot of espresso and a large dollop of whipping cream.

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