Café Commentary

I’ve been in Florence for a little over two months, and it’s crazy how fast time has flown by. My goal this past month has been to immerse myself in Florence’s community. One of the things I have grown to love the most is the literary cafes. They’re spaces that combine a café and library or bookstore. I find myself going to one every day for a coffee and a place to study. I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker before I came here. However, the espressos and cappuccinos are addicting. I have been to many literary cafes, and I thought I could use this space to review the ones I’ve visited the most and think are the best.

My favorite place to go has been La Cité. It’s about a 20-minute walk from my apartment. This small café is always busy. Thankfully, it has two floors so I can usually find a spot to sit. It has a bar when you first walk in where you can get something to drink or a bite to eat. The coffee is super affordable, but the other items can be a bit pricey. The feel of the place is unique; it’s covered in local art, and all of the furniture is second-hand. One of the cool features is they host a lot of small events. I went to a poetry reading one night. The event was multilingual, and anyone could read poetry they wrote or liked. I didn’t understand what was being said most of the time, but it was still a cool experience.

The next place is Biblioteca delle Oblate. This is one of the libraries in the city and is closest to the city center. It’s a short walk from where I live and from my classes. This place is built like a square with a small courtyard in the middle. The very top floor overlooks the city, with a small café in one of the corners. They offer a variety of drinks and food as well. I think it’s relatively okay, but it is on the cheaper side for being close to the city center. On beautiful days, I like coming here to study or read. This spot is popular with locals, so it’s hard to find seating most of the time. Half the time, I end up sitting on the first floor under one of the arches.

Il Conventino has been the most interesting spot I have visited, but it’s super far away. It’s about a 40-minute walk from where I live. It’s on the outskirts of Florence and tucked away in a small neighborhood. The setup of this building is similar to the library. The building is rectangular with a huge courtyard in the middle. There are flowering trees and lots of small tables to sit at. The cool feature about this literary café is it’s connected to the Artex program. It’s a residency program for artists, allowing them studio space in a small art community. I met and talked with a few of them about their practice and any advice for a young artist. The café inside is beautiful with lots of sunlight streaming in and amazing food and coffee. It’s a popular spot on weekends because the artists and café collaborate on events.

The Odeon is an unconventional bookstore because it is also a free cinema. This is my favorite spot to visit on rainy days. The whole first floor of the building is a bookstore, sadly they don’t offer any English books, but that’s understandable. Something cool is you can’t hear the audio of the movie until you reach the second or third floor. The whole second floor is filled with yellow movie chairs, and the third floor has small tables for one to work at. It’s kinda hard getting a table, but I keep getting lucky whenever I go. There is also a café connected to the first floor, but I haven’t checked it out yet because it’s always super busy.

I have visited a few more, but I think these four are the most noteworthy. I will give Todo Modo an honorable mention. It’s a little bookshop with a small seating area. The literary café is a cute spot to visit. However, I think the other places each have a unique quality and are more connected to the community and history of Florence.

Jillian K. is studying studio art and studying abroad at Florence University of the Arts in Florence Italy. 

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