Italy Travel Tips & Hints App: Bars in Italy

Our friend Martha Bakerjian, the Italy guide for, recently published a new mobile app: Italy Travel Tips & Hints, available on iTunes and Android.

The tips and hints included in the app are based Martha’s personal travels throughout Italy over the past 30 years, as well as questions she gets from her readers.

There’s a section of things you should do before you go. You may want to browse through the regions, themed itineraries, things to see, and when to go sections as you plan where to go, too. Once in Italy, you’ll find tips about eating, transportation, money, safety and other useful hints that may help you have a better experience, as well as avoid problems.

Here’s a quick excerpt where Martha describes the importance of Italian bars:

The Italian bar, sometimes called a caffe‘, is the center of social life and Italians may visit their local bar several times in the morning for coffee, and again in the early evening for an aperitivo or cocktail before dinner.

At the bar you’ll find coffee, pastries, sandwiches (panini), and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Some bars also serve small meals at lunch, finger food with appertivi before lunch or dinner, or gelato. Many bars close before the end of dinner time so if you want an after dinner drink, digestivo, it’s best to order it at the restaurant after your meal.

Important note: In bars in larger cities and tourist centers, it will cost more to sit at a table (sometimes even more if the table is outside) than it will to stand at the bar. In especially popular main squares such as Piazza San Marco in Venice, table service can be very expensive.

Prices are posted–al banco meaning the price for consuming a beverage at the bar, or al tavolo, meaning the price at the table. If you want to linger for awhile, pay for the service and enjoy the table but if you just want a quick drink, stand at the bar. Bars in smaller places don’t always charge for table service.

Some larger bars have a cash register where you need to pay before ordering but usually you won’t pay until you’re ready to leave. You can also buy bottled water at a bar but it’s usually much cheaper to buy it in a grocery store (alimentari or supermercato).

Tip: As you wander around, take a look inside historic bars and coffee houses, often beautifully decorated.