No nationality takes coffee as seriously as Italians do. Let’s be honest, you can’t go to Italy and not try the coffee, and Venice is no exception. Whether you’re a certified coffee-addict, or just like the occasional cup of Joe – or perhaps you’re a fully fledged freelancer looking for decent wifi to accompany your flat white (we have good and bad news) – there’s no better place to whet your whistle than Venice; the first city in Europe where coffee was introduced. So if you’re serious about getting to grips with the Italian coffee scene, check out our latest guide to the best cafes in Venice.
Where serves the best coffee (and pastries!) in Venice?
Let’s face it, gone are the days of coffee being simply a beverage. These days it’s a fully-fledged institution. With so much to consider, such as price, scenery, pastry offerings and sometimes even connectivity, we all know deciding where to go for coffee can entail much deliberation. Cue flow charts, spread sheets, and perhaps, a re-evaluation of how much time you spend deciding where to go for coffee. Never fear! We’ve taken the hassle out of the process for you and broken down Venice’s coffee scene in this handy guide.
Time for a tour? Check out our… Welcome to Venice Tour with Gondola Ride
Did you know… coffee originally came to Europe through Venice?
Interestingly, the history of coffee is tied to Venice. During the 17th century, Venetian merchants took the curious powder back with them from Istanbul and brought it back to the city, with much excitement. Unsure what to make of the strange concoction, it was at first sold as a medicinal elixir, used to cure everything from ‘head maladies’ to smallpox. Soon however, it was marketed as an ‘exotic’ new beverage and the merchants began selling it exclusively to wealthy citizens – charging a scorching mark-up while they were at it.
Coffee became a much prized commodity among the upper class but as its popularity grew, word spread about its stimulating effect. Suspicions about the new drink began to arise. The Venetian clergy condemned it as ‘the bitter drink of Satan’ but when Pope Clement VIII tasted it, he had a different opinion.
He declared; “this devil’s drink is so delicious, we should cheat the devil by baptising it”. Allegedly he even baptised some coffee beans! Whether this is fact or exaggeration, coffee was officially legitimised for Catholics around the world. The drink spread rapidly throughout Italy and Europe as a result. It became a particularly popular breakfast drink and people soon found starting their day with caffeine rather than alcohol made them a whole lot more alert, and productive – and so the fuel of the modern workplace was born!
From ‘Penny Universities’ to… study spaces?
It’s only fitting that the first coffeehouse in Italy (and Europe) opened in Venice. Caffè Florian, was founded by Floriano Francesconi in 1720 and marked the beginning of a new era. Coffeehouses gained enormous popularity throughout the 18th century in Europe and became a place where people from all walks of life came together and new ideas were born. Because of this cross mingling of society – from the upper class to labourers – coffee-houses gained the nickname ‘Penny Universities’ – places where people could gain a vast amount of knowledge and insight for the price of a coffee.
However, if you’re looking for a place to study in Venice or somewhere with a good wifi connection, you might be out of luck. Though it’s common in other parts of Europe for freelancers and students to work from coffeshops, the trend really hasn’t caught on in Italy. In fact, you’ll only find one Starbucks in the whole country – and it’s in Milan.
This has a lot to do with Italian coffee culture. Most Italians drink coffee standing at the bar and usually in the form of espresso. Not only is this much cheaper (80 cent for an espresso, anyone?) but it helps to encourage a real appreciation for your drink.
As Walks of Italy’s very own Venice Operations Manager Riccardo Bettella informed me, “in old fashioned Venice, we’re really traditional. We keep the cafes for enjoying the moment of a coffee [whereas] libraries are dedicated to students and workers”. So if you absolutely need somewhere to work from try a library or its cafeteria, like the Querini Stampalia. Then, with your work done you can take the time to indulge in a guilt-free coffee afterwards!
Venice’s coffee scene
For artisan coffee, go to: Caffè del Doge
Located near the Rialto Bridge down a sleepy lane, Caffè del Doge is a spot you definitely don’t want to miss if you’re a coffee fan in Venice. Founded in the 1950s, this unassuming cafe packs a real punch. Using artisan-roasted beans, it offers up a selection of brews bound to tickle even the most refined tastebuds. Browse their extensive menu or try one of their richly roasted espressos – you won’t be disappointed!
For a slice of coffee history, visit: Caffè Florian
As the first cafe to open in Europe, one would be right to assume Caffè Florian knows a thing or two when it comes to coffee. Founded in 1720, (if you couldn’t tell from the plush decor inside) this is a true slice of Venetian history. The coffee is certainly on the pricier side, but going to Caffè Florian isn’t simply about getting your caffeine fix. It’s about enjoying the experience and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere within these storied walls. Notable for its famous past patrons, including the likes of Charles Dickens and Lord Byron, you’ll be in good company inside this elegant cafe. It was also one of the only cafes during the eighteenth century that would serve women.
For more variety, go to: Torrefazione Cannaregio
In the Cannaregio district of Venice, Torrefazione Cannaregio is a coffee lover’s dream. Neatly tucked into mahogany shelves behind the counter are a vast array of coffees, just waiting to be tried. The awning outside makes this cafe easy to spot, and you’ll be glad you stopped by once you see the range of delicious roasts on offer.
For a spot that opens late, try: Adagio Caffè & Wine Bar
Coffee or wine? Day-time or night? Wouldn’t it be great not to have to decide. Open until 11 pm most evenings, Adagio Caffè and Wine Bar should be on any night owl’s radar whilst in Venice. Better again, this cafe serves delicious Venetian cicchetti and a tempting array of cocktails – a real win-win situation. If you opt for an evening drink be sure to check out our detailed guide to drinking Like an Italian.
For a sweet treat, delve into: Pasticceria Tonolo
Nothing beats the taste of something sweet alongside a freshly brewed cup of coffee and Pasticceria Tonolo never disappoints. Load up on some of their delicious cannoli brimming with mascarpone, flaky croissants or freshly baked jam tarts before a day of Venetian adventure and sightseeing. The only difficulty lies in deciding which to pick. But if you’re around during carnival season, you have to try their speciality fritelles whipped up just for the occasion. Also be sure to check out our introduction to Italian pastries and cakes.
For the cosiest spot, pop into: Caffè Brasilia
Truly a hole in the wall cafe, this is a spot that could easily be missed if you’re not careful – but that would be a big mistake. The inviting atmosphere in Caffè Brasilia is almost as welcoming as the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee that greets you as you walk inside. A great all rounder, this spot is perfect for a light snack during the day paired with a smooth cappuccino.
Or the most quirky spot, stop by: Sullaluna
Part bistro, part bookshop, one hundred percent wholesome. Sallaluna has a laid back vibe characterised by the rustic furniture adorning this bright little cafe. With a vegetarian menu that caters for vegans too, this is a great spot for veggies to grab a bite along with a delicious coffee fix.
Finally, for the best espresso, go to: Rosa Salva
Founded in 1870 by Andrea Rosa, Rosa Salva began life as a mobile catering service, delivering freshly made fare to Venetian villas along the Brenta River. Today, they have cafes dotted in various locations throughout the city. Whichever you choose, it will make for a great spot to soak up Venice’s rich atmosphere and watch life go by – especially if you’re an espresso fan.
Once you’re caffeinated, you’ll want to use your newfound energy for a day of sightseeing – and there’s no better way to see all of the Floating City’s top attractions than our tours of Venice. See all of the city’s best attractions with our Venice in a Day Tour, or check out our scrumptious Venice Food Tour for a taste of the best markets and cicchetti around town.