Community is a 5€ per day subscription to a café. On the main streets are the tourists but in the alleys and in the streets away from the center is where communities flourish.
Neighbors and friends frequent their favorite local cafés, arriving not only for an espresso and biscotti but also for a chat, for gossip, for a heated discussion. There are hundreds of little cafés and each one has its regular, recognizable, and amicable clientele. The società del caffé—that is, the culture of discourse and discussion over a cup of coffee—is not yet dead.
A man with fine white hair kindly gestures to me to take the seat across from him. “Prego” he insists, as it is the last seat in the café. I sit, listening to conversations, as he continues to pore over his newspapers with a magnifying glass. It is my own local café, right underneath my apartment, where I am recognized easily if only by my blonde hair.
Someone else gets up to leave…
“Are you coming back later, Giuseppe?” the old man calls out to the man leaving.
“I’m not sure,” Giuseppe responds. “I have to pick up my kids from school. I’ll try!”
That is how it is: cappuccino and dolce (sweet) in the morning and a caffé (espresso) and salata (salted snack) in the afternoon, both accompanied by the regular customers. The baristas coo over children, ask after friends, bring up news for debate.
From my seat, tacitly listening, I have heard frustrations about politics, opinions on the new pope, achievements in school. Cafés are where friends breakfast, where neighbors meet, where students study, where workers take their breaks. In the rush of a city, it is easy to get lost—but respite and community can always be found in a café.