Small town etiquette.
One of the pleasures of life in Italy is the coffee. Those who follow this blog know I am passionate about caffé, and my struggles with getting a decent tazza in the USA.
Having a caffé at an Italian bar is more than just the drink, but also the interactions with the barista and other patrons. I also quickly realized that there is a slightly different interaction here in Lucanella as to who pays for the coffee.
In Ascoli Piceno the person who said “prendiamo un caffé” was the person who expected to pay. At less than a euro for a caffé this was as much a symbolic offering as a courtesy. Here in Lucanella I have discovered a different take on who buys the caffé.
The first few times we were in a bar with local friends and tried to buy a caffé we got the “you must be kidding” look from the barista. It can create a brutta figura to let a guest buy their own caffé. We also had several experiences where we would enter the bar and there would be another patron already present who we didn’t yet know. When we finished we would learn that the person who just left had already paid for our caffé.
We have since determined that the custom is that if you are in the bar and others come in after you for a caffé, you buy for everyone. This can be tricky, as in any small town everyone knows each other; though they may not all like each other. Politics and family histories can go way way back. Our dilemma is often that we enjoy having a pastry with our morning caffé but it can be a brutta figura to order a caffé and cornetto when someone else is paying.
Such is life in small town Italy. We learn new things day by day – piano, piano.