Posted by: debrakolkka | June 25, 2010

The Italian Bar

Bar Italia - our local bar at Ponte a Serraglio

Bars in Italy are quite different from what we recognise as a bar in Australia.  Alcohol is served, but it is not the main focus .  You can go there for breakfast, and I recommend that you do this.  Coffee and a pastry will cost next to nothing and will be delicious.  Light lunch is usually available and later in the day go for an aperitivo and perhaps party into the night.  Even the tiniest village in Italy is likely to have a bar.

In the late afternoon many bars will have a delicious selection of free snacks to have with you aperitivo.

snacks on the bar

An Italian bar can be difficult to navigate for a novice, especially a city bar.  It is usual to pay the person at the cash register first, so decide which pastry and coffee you want, pay the cashier and go with the docket you will receive to the barista to ask for your order.

You may be offered your pastry in a paper serviette.  This is normal.  It is also normal to have your coffee and pastry standing at the bar.  In fact, you will pay more to sit at a table in most bars in larger towns and cities.  This is not the case in small villages like Ponte a Serraglio.  The protocol is more relaxed and you are free to sit at tables at no extra cost.

Once you get the hang of bar rules it is fun to part of life in an Italian bar. The coffee is good, the pastries are good and the company is bound to be interesting.  If you are lucky enough to be staying for a while in Italy, find a local bar you like the look of, and become a regular.  All you need is a “Buongiorno” and a smile to fit in.  It won’t be long before the barista knows how you like your coffee and you will get to know some locals.

one of my favourite bars in Lucca

When I first went to Ponte a Serraglio I spent lots of time in Bar Italia.  This is where I met the people who have become my friends and I learned many valuable lessons about life in my adopted country.

A couple of extra tips – If you ask for a latte, you will get a glass of warm milk.  It is called a cafe latte.  A flat white is a cappuccino senza schiuma – without foam – or do what the locals do and have an espresso.

the other bar we love at the Ponte - Il Monaco

My favourite bar in Florence, and quite possibly the world is Giacosa.

delicious things to eat at Giacosa - my favourite bar In Florence

the good looking bar - and barista at Giacosa

Giacosa is owned by Roberto Cavalli and is situated at behind his shop in Via Tornabuone in the heart of Florence. The coffee is great and there snacks are delicious. They also do a very good light lunch and they sell chocolates in beautiful Roberto Cavalli designed boxes.




  1. Ahh good to know that you’re supposed to eat your food stnading up. Better to sidestep any potential cultural misunderstandings huh! 😉

  2. The information in your post Debra are invaluable! I will remember your advices next time am in Italy 🙂
    I like the way you make the comparison between different countries.
    I should adopt your style when talking about Sudan once we will be there. Of course there is no comparison between Italy and Sudan hahaha.

    I love the pastry picture!
    and I love Florence!!!
    Thanks Debra

    • Next time you go to Italy I hope I am there and you can come to visit.

  3. I have been waiting and waiting for a bright picture on the header, it looks superb Roz

  4. You’re making me so homesick for Italy.

  5. Ohhhhhhh how exciting Debra that I will be sitting in those little bars in only a few weeks chatting with the locals and having a caffe with you !!! 🙂
    love your blogs and words of advice. Sandra

  6. What superb photos and what a wonderful way to travel your blog is. Although I’m dismayed that I squinted more closely at the pastries than I did at the barista!!

  7. Bar Italia–The previous owners were great friends of mine and it was a great place to learn and experience Italia as a teenager in the sixties. I’m so glad it lives on and can’t wait to return.

  8. Hi Dianne, You must mean Mario. I think he had the bar before Paolo. The Bar Italia is the hub of the village, I love it!

  9. My father ws born there, I used to go there every summer when I was in my teens. I love that place ..I love the gelato at Bar Italia my dad’s sister in law’s family owned it, my cousin owns the store on Via Seraglia by the bridge. I am so happy I found you site

    • correct my name Natalie typing in the dark

      • Hi Natalie,
        Do you still go to Bagni di Lucca? The Bar Italia is the meeting place for the village. We couldn’t do without it. Mario used to own it I think. His sister used to own the mini market under our building and Mario owned the apartment above us until recently.
        Perhaps I will see you there one day.

  10. Hi, Debra. I’m Tracy. You commented on my start-up blog, BoHoTraveller, a week or so ago. I’m impressed with your blog and have already revisited just to see ‘what’s up’. Nevertheless, I do have a question for you.

    I’m looking for restaurants in Italy, but menu’s are a bit different than in North America or even Portugal.

    I’d like to know how to pick apart an Italian menu. When I read about ristorantes, osterias, et al. on sites like trip advisor and virtual tourist, I get the sense of the atmosphere, price, service and food. What I don’t get is a sense of the servings. I’m not sure I could handle antipasti, primo, secondo, contorni and dolce for lunch. Can you explain the Italian eating habits and how stuffed I am likely to be after lunch everyday in Italy. 🙂

  11. I’ve just booked a room at the Albergo Corona and will look for the Bar Italia when I’m there.

    I doubt if I’m the first, but I’m going to Bagni Di Lucca because I stumbled onto your blog.


    • I’m sure Roberto, who owns the Corona will be happy to see you. He is lovely, he speaks English and is very charming. The hotel has just been painted and is looking very nice. I hope the weather is good for you and you can sit on the terrace overlooking the river. When you go to Bar Italia or Il Monaco, have a cappuccino and a sfoglia for me. When are you coming to Bagni di Lucca?

    • I’m pleased that my blog is having this effect. We love the village just as it is, but for the locals the more people who come the better. It all helps to provide jobs and keeps things going. Thank you for choosing Bagni di Lucca and I hope you keep reading the blog ( and leave lovely comments)

    • Hi

  12. […] here for more on […]

  13. Thanks so much for the info regarding you home in Bagni di Lucca. We’ll be there on the 18 …. and I am so enticed by your blog I booked additional time.

    Thanks again

    • I’m sure you will love your time in Bagni di Lucca. Look out for my Australian friends who will be staying in our apartment. They are bound to be at the bar at some time during the day. Be sure to call in to the information centre in La Villa and say hello to Leda, she is a mine of information.

  14. […] here for more on Italian Bars and the Giacosa. I’m sure you have all seen Giacosa boy, but if you […]

  15. […] one of Annalisa’s delicious pastries from Bar Italia or Il Monaco. Take the time to sit at the bar and watch the village come to life. Practise your very best Buongiorno! and make friends with a […]

  16. […] party of 36 headed to a bar (Bar Italia) overlooking the river in town for drinks and nibbles (put on by the bar) before the ceremony, and […]

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