In Italy it’s fairly hard to go wrong when you order a cup of cappuccino,
but I can say without hesitation there is one café in Florence, which surpasses all others when it comes to brewing a frothy and creamy cup of perfection.
Owned by famed designer Roberto Cavalli, the Caffè Giacosa is nestled in a cozy side street – 10R Villa Della Spada – just off of the city’s designer shopping strip, via Tornabuoni. Situated right next to the Cavalli store, the café seems quaint from the outside yet impossibly chic and decadent upon entering thanks to the trademark Cavalli leopard and zebra print décor captured in the plush seating as well as the tapestries and picture frames adorning the wall.
Many of the locals sing the praises of the cafés warm beverages as well as their pastries and lunch specials which is a sure sign that tourists are going to be impressed. Should you choose to sit, there is a lovely albeit small patio outside where you can enjoy the fresh air and the passersby. Of course, as with most bars and cafés in Italy, there is an added charge for seating which is why most patrons (particularly the locals) prefer to head indoors and stand at the bar. Upon entering there is a cashier seated near the door, be sure to pay here first and then present your receipt at the bar. The barista will expertly whip up your cappuccino into a dainty white porcelain cup and right away you’ll notice how delightfully thick and frothy it is on top. But it doesn’t it doesn’t stop there. The finishing touch is to adorn the froth with a swirl of rich dark chocolate syrup in the shape of a “C” (for Cavailli of course). As if being in Italy isn’t already enough, the first taste will feel like a sip of heaven. A touch more creamy than the typical Italian cappuccino, this smooth and milky creation is always served at just the right temperature to please the palate. It’s the perfect perk before a long day of sightseeing or shopping in the city.
Tip: Italians only drink cappuccinos first thing in the morning, but if you wanted to enjoy a cup at the end of the day, no one would blame you!
A winter escape
During the winter months you can order another specialty, cioccolata calda, which is the Italian version of hot chocolate. Truly indulgent, the Italian method calls for premium melted chocolate to create a bitter-sweet and very thick consistency which will warm your body right down to your bones in no time guaranteed. At Giacosa of course, the finishing touches are as important as the drinks themselves – if desired, the barista will rub a fresh orange rind around the rim of your cup to balance your decadent drink with tart citrus flavour and aroma, or you can choose to add a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top.
Stop in during lunch and you can enjoy warm risotto, pasta, fresh salads and more. The prices may be a bit more premium then the neighboring lunch stops, but the servings are generous and the ambience is hard to beat. There is limited seating so better to arrive before the lunch hour rush at noon if you want to get a table. Before you leave the dining nook, head towards the back of the café to the bakery counter where you can pick up some sweet pastries and desserts to take home. On the way, you’ll also note some racks with beautifully wrapped chocolates, confectionaries and a few home accessories on display which you can purchase as a gift.
From the month of April until the end of the summer, Giacosa revs up it’s personality to transform into a nightclub after dark. Nothing less than silk Cavalli bed sheets are draped over the coffee machines and out come the cocktails, dimmed lighting and live DJ (some nights it’s Cavalli’s own son) who perches himself at the cashier counter turned DJ booth and gets the crowd moving with tunes from his laptop. If you want to order like a local, ask the bartender for a Negroni (gin, vermouth and Campari) – some say Giacosa is where this Italian favorite originated. The crowd is always stylish with ages ranging from 20s to 40s, a mix of American students and Florentines who have been waiting out the season to dance the night away in the trendiest café turned club in town.