Trieste: the surprising Italian coffee capital

Beyond the piazza, there’s Caffè Tommaseo from 1830, a series of pearly rooms adorned with carved angels and waiters in crisp jackets and red ties, and La Bomboniera from 1836, a patisserie setting offering Austrian treats like Linzer and Sachertorte. . The duo is managed by the Peratoner chocolate factory and, to welcome visitors, they distribute charming cards that translate the curious language of Trieste coffee.

Still, the favorite of every Triestino I’ve met is Caffè San Marco, founded in 1914 and located just outside the historic center. The stage inside is warm and retains its stunning original design, with bronze coffee leaves lining its ceiling and an antique copper espresso machine. There’s an on-site bookstore and marble tables full of chess-playing customers. Locals consider the owner, Alexandros Delithanassis, a city hero. A former book publisher, he took over the café in 2013 and saved it from demise.

Delithanassis transformed the cafe’s back room into a meeting place for bands and small concerts and book presentations, giving the establishment a community center vibe. On my last night in town, I slipped into the back room and joined a group of expats from England, Finland, Egypt, Australia, and even Naples. Inevitably, the conversation turned to the cafe, and again and again I heard something that didn’t surprise me: since each of them had settled in Trieste, they had found that they drank a lot more.

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