Our trip through the ancient Italian cafes brings us to the hometown of the espresso (and of the finest coffee prepared in the moka pot: the historical cafes of Naples welcome with all of their charm.
“Full of people gesticulating and speaking in loud voices”: this was how French intellectual Stendhal described the customers of the first cafes that opened in the shade cast by the Vesuvius, especially in via Toledo. And today this area is still full of the most chic cafes, especially popular with members of the high and rich middle class.
Gran Caffè Gambrinus
Gran Caffè Gambrinus opened in 1860 near via Toledo and the immense Plebiscito Square: it is the only true historical cafe in Naples that has survived until the present day. Known in ancient times as “cafe of the seven doors” because of its many entrances, it is home to many statues, paintings and marvellous frescos created by the best Italian artists of the time.
Popular with distinguished patrons such as Gabriele D’Annunzio, Oscar Wilde, Guy de Maupassant, Émile Zola, Jean Paul Sartre, Benedetto Croce (and many more), this literary cafe, finely decorated in liberty style, fathered the concept of the caffè sospeso (or “suspended coffee”), the kind gesture that involves paying for a coffee and leaving it for the less fortunate.
Vero Bar del Professore
This cafe is located right in the centre of Naples, precisely in Piazza Trieste e Trento; it is better known as the “Caffè del Professore” and it is considered an obligatory stop for tourists and Neapolitans who want to taste real Parthenopean coffee.
From the grand classics to the most creative variants, not to mention the many other tasty versions in between, such as their hazelnut coffee: the vast offering of Vero Bar del Professore includes a staggering 60+ versions of the beloved “tazzulella ‘e cafè”.
Gran Caffè La Caffettiera
In Piazza dei Martiri, between the promenade and the streets full of shops, visitors and locals can take a break from shopping, or enjoy a delicious bite in Gran Caffè La Caffettiera, famous for its exquisite coffees with cream and its creamy cappuccinos.
Inside this historical Neapolitan cafe, where the chocolate products and pastries on offer all have a coffee-based theme, you can also see the unique collection of coffee pots in many sizes and from different periods.
Located near the station, in Piazza Dante, Bar Mexico is a historical cafe in Naples where you can sip the classic espresso of Parthenopean tradition, always served in a boiling hot cup and ready sugared (those who drink their coffee bitter need to warn the barista).
Curiosity: Bar Mexico was the first cafe of the Parthenopean city to serve pineapple juice. Today, this doesn’t seem too unusual, but a few decades ago it was a rarity with an exotic taste. This historical cafe was also the first to import devices known as “drinks fridges”, created to keep beverages cool.