Italian bars and coffee

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned the fact that a Bar in Italy is not like a Bar in the US. They are places to get your morning (or late morning, or afternoon) coffee and a cornetto for breakfast. Most have gelato in the summer. You can get a beer, wine or grappa as well. Or you can meet up with friends.

Each Italian town has at least one Bar in each neighborhood. Sometimes they are just a block or so apart. Each has it’s own clientele from nearby. But Italians cannot be far from a coffee so you can find Bars along the roads and autostrade too. Even gas stations have Bars. Then you are assured to never be far from a caffe.

In Umbertide just in a 5 or 6 block area I counted 10 Bars. In the Piazza in front of our house are two, Bar Mary and Caffe Centrale. It is very amusing that each of these has it’s own loyal clientele. Mostly the Americans who live around here go to the Caffe Centrale but there are some who have loyalty to Bar Mary. Caffe Centrale is a lot nicer than Bar Mary. Nicer tables and chairs, nicer inside, nicer outdoor covers over the tables. Bar Mary has cheap plastic tables and plastic chairs that stack that are so rickety they recommend you stack two together to sit in! They also have four big yellow square umbrellas to cover the outside tables. They are always crookedly set up and look a bit messy. Bar Mary attracts most of the Brits around here. Also all the old men who play the Italian card game called Briscola gather at the tables in front of Bar Mary and in the winter in the back room to play. It is rather odd that none of these old men ever buy anything to eat or drink while they are there. Also anyone else can sit outside without buying anything.



The owners of Bar Mary are Mary (duh) and Irene (pronounced Eh-ray-na), sisters probably in their late forties or so with very over processed and permed hair. Bright yellow it is. They are both very sweet though and very friendly to us. They know exactly what we want to order each time of day. Cappuccino sensa scuma in the morning, beers if it’s noon or late afternoon, red wine for when Luther smokes his cigar on the Piazza. Oh I probably don’t need to say Bar Mary is “our” bar. We chose it as our Bar when we were here in January and Jim our Realtor told us it was his “office”. He lives in the country so when doing business in town Bar Mary is his place. So it’s ours too now. He calls the two girls the Straw Dogs. It’s pretty descriptive.

Right now things are not right with the world in the Piazza Matteoti because the Bar Mary is closed! Yes CLOSED! for vacation. I am happy for the Straw Dogs because those ladies work very hard. They are open from 7AM to 1AM every single day of the year except their vacation week. They work the place alone except for a man whose relationship to them I have yet to figure out. He is handsome in the Italian way, shaved head, nice build but has a bad overbite. He “may” be married to Mary but I am not sure yet.

Last Sunday we were out for a beer in the afternoon. It was just before they were closed for the vacation week. (They went to the beach) Anyway. we went in to pay for the beers and Irene leaned across the counter to give me a double kiss! I guess I am accepted in the Bar Mary. My Bar.