The Italian Almanac

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Italian café

Italian News - October 7

Some of Italy's bars and cafés are finding innovative ways of making customers hang around a bit longer than it takes to gulp down an espresso, according to the latest specialist guide. As well as the now common concept of the Internet cafe, where you can surf the Web as you sup a cappuccino, the most adventurous establishments are offering clients unexpected options such as saunas and flower arrangements.

The Universal Cafe in Rome's central Via Coppelle is connected to a neighbouring sauna and massage parlour, so a bout of serious body care can be rounded off by a relaxing moment with a coffee and a pastry. In Milan the Bianchi Flower Shop has turned part of its premises into an elegant café with intersecting rooms decorated like a Parisian bistrot. Here you can lounge around, trying aperitifs as you ponder whether to buy roses or an orchid for a loved one.

"Lots of places have decided to encourage people to hang around longer by offering them interesting stuff to do or especially conducive surroundings," said Laura Mantovano, editor of a new guide to Italian bars published by the Gambero Rosso magazine. She said the annual study of bars and cafés had highlighted a growing trend to be offer interesting novelties in order to 'capture' clientele.

Of the 1,500 Italian bars picked out by the Gambero Rosso guide as definitely worth visiting, about 70 fell into this category. It's a small but dynamic section which is destined to grow, Mantovano said. The Gambero Rosso guide selects top Italian bars every year and awards them ratings based on coffee-cup symbols, representing the quality of the coffee, and ears of corn, representing the quality of food available.