Espresso Yourself

I didn’t start drinking coffee until I turned 50. Having always been the one in my family with “champagne taste on a beer budget”, it seemed only natural that my taste-buds are ignited by the expensive Starbucks stuff, not the ordinary cup of Joe. Indeed, I have been born again into the afternoon non-fat latte tribe, and have probably single-handedly kept Starbucks afloat in a flagging economy. A trip to Italy in 2010 coincided with my “taste for coffee discovery,” and seemed the perfect place to explore my new-found love of lattes and cappuccinos. It was at a small street cafe in Rome, however, that I learned from my friend Laurie that Italians consider the  cafe latte and cappuccino to be breakfast drinks only. This startling discovery made me realize I needed to adapt immediately, or be easily targeted as “AMERICAN TOURIST!” when sidled up to a coffee bar in the late afternoon ordering my favorite milk-foamed concoction. Luckily, it was only 10:30 that morning when Laurie set me straight, and I choked down the latte I was drinking. (11:00 am seems to be the cut-off time).  Henceforth,”When in Rome…..”it would be espresso or cafe for me during the day.

When we eventually got to La Romita and began the extraordinary adventure of sketching in small villages and cities throughout Umbria, I happily discovered I could continue to indulge my love of lattes and cappuccinos. Because we arrived by bus in these towns well before the bewitching hour of 11 am, lattes were not out of bounds! We could easily take the time to stake out a cafe, order our foamy coffee drinks, savoring them slowly while sketching whatever was in front of us.  Indeed, it was typically the  first cafe where we landed which would determine the focus or subject of many of our sketches. In Orvieto it was the spectacular cathedral (past 11:00 so it was espresso for me). In Assissi it was sitting on a fountain’s edge, near the cafe, (latte, before 10) sketching a wall.  In Narni it was in the town square, in front of the church near the fountain where all the old men sat shooting the breeze (10:30, cappuccino). However arbitrary or silly this seems, having one’s coffee establishment be the determining factor in making a decision about what to sketch was useful when confronted by a multitude of possibilities ranging from architecture, ruins, fountains, sculptures, people, landscape.

As plans for my upcoming sketch/art group at La Romita are underway, I have made a note to myself to include a section in my “When in Rome” Helpful hints information sheet about ordering Coffee in Italy.
Espresso, anyone?


  1. Brava Sharon! Love your blog! Will sit back with my decaf latte (before 11am, of course) every morning to enjoy…


  2. I didn’t start drinking coffe til my 50’s either! A Starbucks latte is second best to Italy’s. Italy is where I really really appreciated a totally terrific espresso…and the best wines. Happy sketching and creating. Love this blog.


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