In the animated hustle and bustle of Italy’s coffee bars— where a combination of clanking cups, aromatic steam from the macchinetta and carefree friends engaged in quattro chiacchiere melt away worries—you’ll find that as serious they are about the quality of their brew, Italians are even more serious about making time for the kind of human connection that rejuvenates the spirit. In Trieste, for example, you might see elderly women clustered in twos or threes in front of The Pirona (a coffee bar said to have inspired James Joyce); their silver hair coiffed stylishly in loose curls, designer sunglasses lending a sexy aura to their faces; their confident gestures connoting solidarity. You are taken aback by how animated and vibrant they are. And how youthful! Behind them you will notice how those who plod in with a heavy shuffle come out with a floating stride. No, it is not the caffeine that makes un bel caffe’ the Italian fountain of youth.
The feel-good coffee break ritual—whether out or at home— is a critical part of the Italian celebration of life. Lightheartedness prevails when friends come together with the “excuse” of taking a coffee break. Faces look years younger when relaxed and smiling. You can’t lose. This week, why not start or renew your own coffee or tea break ritual? Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Search the Internet for local coffee bars. Make a list of the places you’d like to try. Decide in advance if you want to invite a friend to join you, or if you’d like to go alone, and make an effort to initiate some light hearted chit-chat while there. Take notes on your impressions of each place: How was the coffee, the service, the atmosphere? Was it crowded, empty, cold, warm, conducive to intimate conversation, or more a solitary place?
- Call a few friends for a movie and after-movie discussion at a coffee house. Go to one of your picks from the list above and discuss how the movie relates to your lives. Let your spirit transcend from the tazza, cup, to the pleasure of camaraderie.
- Start a coffee (or tea) connoisseur group with friends. Have fun learning the minor details about coffee, and distinguishing between its many blends, roasts, and preparations.
- Establish a Saturday morning coffee language or discussion group. I have met some wonderful friends through a simple ad I happened to catch in the newspaper several years ago, announcing an Italian language group at a local coffee house. Each Saturday, the group met for one hour of Italian conversation of all levels—from native born Italians to Italian novices. You can start book clubs, recipe exchanges, or any other special interest gatherings, over coffee at your local café’.
You’ll be amazed at how the pausa caffe’ (even decaf- or green tea if your health requires) will pull you out of your troubles and reacquaint you with the joy of living.
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