Source: Cafe culture in Italy c. 1900   Leave a comment

The following text dates to c. 1900 and gives the experience of an American in Rome.

The cafe in Italy, and for that matter on the Continent, almost deserves to be called an institution, so intimately is it bound up with the habits and customs of the country. Eating and drinking are often its secondary uses, coffee, ices, and other viands and beverages, serving as excuses for writing letters, reading the papers, meeting friends, conversing, playing draughts or chess, passing an idle hour. To many it serves the purpose of a club. There are cafes of every grade. My servant was in the habit of spending every free evening with her friends from the Abruzzi mountains in a cafe kept by another friend from the same region. Questions of politics, religion, ethics, and geography were nightly discussed there by the ignorant but shrewd rustics who met within its hospitable precincts, and their racy observations and piquant debates, which drifted to us through smiling, olive-faced Agnese, soon won for the little shop the sobriquet of the ‘Hotel de Rambouillet’. The silk-clad precieuses who conversed in the famous Parisian salon with Moliere and Bossuet may have been more elegantly dressed, and more celebrated, but I doubt if their intellectual curiosity and alertness and their code of courteous etiquette exceeded that of these bronzed peasants in the small, smoky Roman cafe.


Posted December 25, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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