Finding My Own Starbucks

Today, the Eternal City was hit with a heat wave, and the Romans quietly retreat indoors.  The air is thick and oppressive, blanketing you as soon as you step outside your door.  The city is eerily silent; Rome does not put up much of a fight.  Not even the tourists are out today – save myself.  Though I no longer accept the tourist label for myself, anyways.  I am a traveler.  And today, despite the heat, I went on my own adventure.

I have seen this advice given on countless traveler and expat websites for Rome: “Avoid sitting down in the kind of place that Italians call a “bar” and we call a “café.” Why? Because as soon as you sit down, the price of whatever you’re eating doubles, triples… or worse. That’s why you see Italians usually taking their coffee and cornetti standing up.”  And it’s true.  Many cafés and bars in Rome have limited seating – I’m talking maybe two or three cramped tables.  And if you take your coffee sitting down, there is an extra fee.  So most Romans take their coffee standing up.  Good for an espresso, not so good for an afternoon of blogging.

And so, I have been on the look out for my own “Starbucks.”  A place with free Wi-Fi, expansive tables, outlets, coffeehouse music.  For all of the cafés in Rome, finding a place to sit and do work is seemingly mythical.  I’m reminded of this quote from Casablanca, “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” 

I was directed to this website featuring Rome's Coziest Cafes with Wi-Fi.  And that is how I ended up at Circus.  According to Revealed Rome, “Circus, a 3-minute walk from Piazza Navona, is a gem. It's just slightly far enough off the beaten track that most tourists get sucked in by other (terrible) spots, including those right on the piazza, before they even get this far. So during the workday, especially, the atmosphere is quiet and relaxed. Along with free Wi-Fi, you've got your choice of tables in the front, couches in the back. 

Extra bonuses: The international newspapers and magazines at each table are a nice touch; most customers during the day are typing away on Macbooks, so you won't feel out-of-place or antisocial by doing the same.”

And so today, on the hottest of hot days, I decided to find Circus.  My own little sit-down Starbucks in a town of a thousand stand-up cafés.

The walk here was sweltering.  A 2.2 kilometer walk in 96°.  Not a breeze to be had.  I followed the walls of buildings, trying to stay in the hint of shade they reluctantly provided. I almost thought I wouldn’t make it, that I wouldn’t find it and would have to give up along the way. That I would just have to go to a normal café.  

And then, I found it.  My Starbucks.  Like a mirage in a desert, it is beautiful.  There are a variety of tables in the front, each with an eclectic collection of books and magazines.  The walls are adorned with posters and bottles of wine and mirrors.  In the back, there are indeed couches, that look far too comfortable for me to be productive.  And the best part?  It comes with it’s own puppy.  She is a beautiful black cocker spaniel.  Her name sounds like “Loopy” to me, which probably isn’t right, but I’ll call her that anyways.  Today is truly one of the dog days of summer.  Loopy lazily sits next to me looking for pets.  When she tires of me, she melts into the floor, trying to cool down.  She reminds me of a Salvador Dalí painting.

I order a cappuccino at first, despite the heat. When in Rome.  I immediately take that back, apologizing to the Italian waitress.  “I’m sorry, it’s just too hot!”  I settle for a fresh smoothie.  She gestures to the array of fruit; I get to choose what I want in my smoothie.  I decide on strawberries and pears and ice.  It is fresh and cold and perfect on this hot day. 

Sitting in this café, I don’t feel like a tourist.  I am a traveler, and the Italians are starting to accept me.  Even if I order a smoothie instead of coffee.