Trieste: Italy’s surprising coffee capital

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Beyond the piazza there is Cafe Tommaseo from 1830, a cozy row of pearly rooms adorned with sculpted angels and waiters in crisp jackets and red ties, and La Bomboniere from 1836 jewelry box of a pastry shop with Austrian delicacies such as Linzer and Sachertorte. Run by chocolate company Peratoner, the duo hand out enchanting cards that translate Trieste’s curious coffee language to greet visitors.

But the favorite of all the Triestinos I’ve met is Cafe San Marco, founded in 1914 and located just outside the historic center. The interior scene is warm and retains its stunning original design, with bronze coffee leaves hanging from the ceiling and an antique copper espresso machine. There’s an on-site bookstore and marble tables full of customers playing chess. Locals consider the owner, Alexandros Delithanassis, a hero of the city. The former book publisher took over the café in 2013 and saved it from going under.

Delithanassis has transformed the back room of the café into a place for groups to meet and small concerts and book launches, giving the place a community center feel. On my last night in town, I slipped into the back room and joined a gathering of expats who came from places like England, Finland, Egypt, Australia – even Naples. Inevitably, the conversation turned to coffee, and I kept hearing something that didn’t surprise me: since they’d all moved to Trieste, they’d found that they were drinking a lot more of it.

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