The trick to ordering espresso on a budget: al banco

Continuing our series on budget travel in Italy, let’s talk about how to drink amazing espresso on the cheap.

Coffee or caffè is elevated to an artform in Italy. There is virtually no place that you can go where a bad espresso is served. It’s also pretty inexpensive. If you order your espresso sitting at a table, you will pay a markup of up to 300%, on average. (If you plan on having a cappuccino, please do so only at breakfast! Italians see this beverage as a strictly A.M. ritual and ordering a cappuccino after a huge meal is downright incomprehensible to the locals.)

Instead, order right at the bar. The average espresso costs Euro 1.20 (unless you’re in a very touristy place) when ordered al banco (at the counter). That’s a pretty big savings. The same goes for the pastry that accompanies your cappuccino in the morning. If you plan to linger, it’s worth the extra couple of euro to sit, but you have a money-saving option.

Paying more to people watch is a worthwhile investment in large piazze like Piazza Navona in Rome or Piazza San Marco in Venice, but save your moneta (coins) where you can and you’ll find yourself being able to afford an extra day!

One response

  1. Brenda Rouse

    Oh this is so true! I still have a receipt for two cappuccinos and two crossiants near the Spanish Steps where we decided to “sit” and people watch. It is equally to a NYC dinner! But in retrospect, it’s something I’ll “never get to do again!”

    June 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

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