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Although Rome may not boast the grand caffè of Paris or Vienna, it does have hundreds of small places on pleasant side streets and piazzas to while away the time. Many cafés have tons of personality and are quite friendly to lingering patrons. The coffee is routinely of high quality. Locals usually stop in for a quickie at the bar, where prices are much lower than for the same drink taken at the table.
Antico Caffè Greco. Pricey Antico Caffè Greco is a national landmark; its red-velvet chairs, marble tables, and neoclassical sculpted busts have hosted the likes of Byron, Shelley, Keats, Goethe, and Casanova, the antique artwork lining the walls lending it the air of a gorgeously romantic, bygone era. Located in the middle of the shopping madness on the upscale Via Condotti, this place is indeed filled with tourists, but there are some locals who love to breathe the air of history—more than 250 years of it—within these dark-wood walls. Coming at off-hours is your best bet to glimpse authenticity. Via dei Condotti 86, Piazza di Spagna, Rome, 00187. 06/6791700. www.anticocaffegreco.eu.
Caffè Sant'Eustachio. Traditionally frequented by Rome's literati, this has what is generally considered Rome's best cup of coffee. Servers are hidden behind a huge espresso machine, vigorously mixing the sugar and coffee to protect their "secret method" for the perfectly prepared cup. (If you want your caffè without sugar here, ask for it amaro). Piazza Sant'Eustachio 82, Pantheon, Rome, 00186. 06/68802048.
Tazza d'Oro. Many admirers contend this is the city's best cup of coffee. The hot chocolate in winter, all thick and gooey goodness, is a treat. And in warm weather, the coffee granita is the perfect cooling alternative to a regular espresso. Via degli Orfani, Pantheon, Rome, 00186. 06/6789792. www.tazzadorocoffeeshop.com.
Rosati. You can sit yourself down and watch the world go by at Rosati, where tourists and locals have met for decades to sip and be seen. This is one of the closest "institution"-like places that Rome has in its caffè culture, open since 1922. Piazza del Popolo 5, Spagna, Rome, 00196. 06/3225859 or 06/3227378.
Caffè della Pace. With its sidewalk tables taking in Santa Maria della Pace's adorable piazza, Caffè della Pace has long been the haunt of Rome's beau monde. Set on a quiet street near Piazza Navona, it also has two rooms filled with old-world personality and paparazzi-worthy patrons. The neighborhood is currently hipper than ever, creating clogged vicoli, so snagging a table here is now an especially prized commodity. Dinner is more of a light meal than a dining "experience," but it's worth coming for the vibe. Via della Pace 3, Navona, Rome, 00186. 06/6861216. www.caffedellapace.it.
Caffè Teichner. Just off the Corso, this relatively pricey establishment on a lively piazza offers all the basic nibbles (tramezzini, panini), along with the patronage of true Roman residents. Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina 15-17, Spagna, Rome, 00186. 06/6871557. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bar San Calisto. Walk toward Viale di Trastevere and discover the small and wonderfully down-at-the-heels Bar San Calisto, immensely popular with the old local community and expat crowd. The drinks are as inexpensive as the neighborhood gets and the same could be said about the institutional lighting; the crowd waivers between bohemian and just unshowered and drunk. Don't miss the super hot chocolate in winter and the chocolate gelato in summer, both of which are as rich as the beer is cheap. Piazza San Calisto 4, Trastevere, Rome, 00153. 06/5895678. Reservations not accepted.
Caffè della Scala. A mellow locale with old photos of jazz artists lining the walls, this spot sports French-Moroccan-brothel-meets-Louisiana-piano-bar decor and a mixed Roman and expat clientele. The outdoor tables are the ones to snag. Via della Scala 4, Trastevere, Rome, 00153. 06/5803610.
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