snack bar coffee rome italy

Italian bars: a cultural thing. Let’s see which are the oldest bars in Rome

Italian bars, symbol of Italy, like pizza or spaghetti. The bar, a sacred place for Italians, is not only a cultural thing, but also means sharing. Let’s see together which are the oldest bars in Rome.

Brief history of Italian bars

A first example of a place similar to a bar, for gathering and consuming food and drinks already existed in ancient Rome. It was the Roman Taberna, where you could always find hot food and wine. However, for coffee we have to wait a little longer. The famous dark beverage was discovered by chance in Ethiopia, when a shepherd noticed that his goats were much more active after eating some leaves of a coffee plant. Thanks to the Turks, the beans also arrived in Italy starting from the 16th century, via Venice. The first bars were initially called caffè. They became more popular starting from 1600, particularly in the most culturally fervent cities. In fact, from their origins bars were places for sharing ideas and building social relationships. In Rome, the bar boom began in 1800, when there were already 200 of them.

ancient coffee bars

The very first Italian bars were called Caffè. Copyright @SpecialCoffee

The Italian morning ritual

Since the post-war period, Italian bars are no longer places strictly linked to the meetings of artists’ and writers’ circles, where to discuss some revolutionary ideas. Rather, they become places in which to exchange relaxing conversations. The success of the bar goes hand in hand with the popularity of espresso. Coffee at the bar counter, accompanied by a cornetto, becomes an increasingly essential ritual in the life of Italians. Around this apparently banal ritual, there is the sense of aggregation of friends and colleagues. Even the simple dialogue with the bartender, often considered an essential figure for the popularity of the bar, can be therapeutic. So, it’s not just the place where to have breakfast. Here you can spend some time reading a newspaper or watching a football match and playing cards. Even if today we are losing a part of this traditions, the bar remains one of the symbols of Italian culture.


Cornetto is the famous Italian brioche, radicated in the tradion of the Italian breakfast.

The numbers of Italian bars

According to Unioncamere data, in 2020 there were 167,159 bars in Italy. The region with the most restaurant activities is Lombardy. The second place is for Lazio and the third place for Campania. However, the Italian city with the biggest number of bars is Rome, with around 800 venues open in the historic center alone. Yet, it seems that in the last two years many of these activities have disappeared. The problem is precisely the competitiveness that exists especially in large cities. In small towns, however, the neighborhood bar has a better chance of resisting the passage of time. In any case, these numbers make it clear how the bar is a fundamental place for Italians. Luckily, some of the historic bars are still active. So, let’s see which are the oldest bars in Rome.

snack bar

Italian bars are places for aggregation.

The oldest bars in Rome

In Rome we are lucky enough to still be able to have a coffee at the counter of some of the oldest bars in the city. Let’s see together what it is.

The coffee roasting bars

Caffè Sant’Eustachio – (Piazza Sant’Eustachio, 82) Ancient wood-fired roaster from 1938. One of the most loved coffees in Rome, thanks also to the famous layer of frothy cream which makes the espresso even tastier. The recipe remains a secret to this day, as the espresso machines are hidden so no one can see.


Sant’Eustachio is the famous roman coffee roaster very near to Pantheon.

Caffè Palombini – (Piazzale Konrad Adanauer, 12) A little outside the centre, in the most modern district of Rome, the EUR, a stone’s throw from the Square Colosseum. This bar was opened in the 1960s by Giovanni Palombini, founder of the Palombini manufacturing company. It is one of the historic roasteries of Rome.

Sciascia Caffè – (Via Fabio Massimo, 80) Roasting company in Rome since 1919, located in the Prati district, very close to the Vatican Museums. The decor is classic and a bit retro, but some espresso variations are modern such as the gran caffè and the gran cappuccino.

Castroni – (Via Cola di Rienzo, 196) Born in 1932 thanks to Umberto Castroni, who decided to sell the family drinks kiosk and open the famous shop in Via Cola di Rienzo, which later became a roastery in the 1970s. In Rome there are several points of sale, where you can now find absolutely everything, not just coffee.

Caffè Tazza d’Oro – (Via degli Orfani, 84) Practically in front of the Pantheon, this ancient Roman coffee roaster is famous not only for its coffee, but also for the delicious coffee granita with double whipped cream. Opened in 1944, over the years it has become one of the most famous roasteries in the world.

The most ancient bars

Antico Caffè Greco – (Via Condotti, 86) Founded in 1760, it is the second oldest bar in Italy, after the Florian in Venice. The name is due to the Greek origin of its founder Nicola della Maddalena. In the 19th century it was a meeting place for artists and intellectuals such as Schopenhauer, Stendhal and Wagner. Today it is a large art gallery open to the public a stone’s throw from Piazza di Spagna.

Caffè Greco

Caffè Greco is the most ancient coffee bar in Rome.

Caffè Museo Atelier Canova Tadolini – (Via del Babuino, 150) Located where the studio of the sculptor Antonio Canova once stood. Later sold to his favorite pupil Tadolini. Today it is not only a bar but also a museum with a collection of sculptures.

Harry’s bar – (Via Vittorio Veneto, 150) Opened in 1959, but already existed in 1918 under the name Golden Gate. Symbol of the Roman Dolce Vita, it was the place for the most exclusive parties by Italian film stars and many artists. Today the place is famous for the Bellini cocktail and for being one of the historic places of Rome.

The bar is a fundamental part of Italians’ lives. Why not visit some of the oldest in Rome during one of our tours?