by Kathryn Donati, College of William and Mary and Spring ’19 Umbra Rep
Whether you crave your daily caffeine fix or enjoy the occasional artisanal hot chocolate, your time in Perugia will not be complete until you find your favorite local bar. My friend, and fellow Umbra student, Eleni and I bravely sacrificed one bright and sunny Friday morning to take a walking tour of the bars and cafes in Perugia’s centro storico. More than just moral support, Eleni was also the official Caffeinated Beverages Taste Tester, as I tend more to the hot chocolate and herbal teas of the world. Here are our very scientific findings.
For the most local experience, you’re going to want to head to Bar Duomo.
Local Perugini flow in and out of Bar Duomo all day, making it one of the best places for people and, more importantly, dog spotting in the piazza. Daniele, behind the bar, has a wide smile and an even wider selection of pastries and sandwiches, making this the perfect spot for a quick breakfast or lunch. Eleni sampled Bar Duomo’s caffè al ginseng — short and sweet that perfectly combines the punch of caffeine with the natural pep of ginseng. Bar Duomo’s cioccolata calda was more on the bitter side than other bars, though it was certainly thinner than some of the syrup-like concoctions we sampled. One of the most affordable options, you’re definitely paying local prices at Bar Duomo.
Final Score: 8/10 recommend Bar Duomo for a quick bite, an espresso or small coffee, and a friendly chat with the barista.
For the freshest flavors and roomiest seating, head to Il Bistrot.
Don’t be scared away by the mildly intimidating aura of Il Bistrot, with its business suit-wearing clientele and smartly dressed baristas. Here’s your key to surviving Il Bistrot: if you’re planning to go and sit, feel free to claim a table, wait for a waiter or order at the bar, and pay on your way out, but if you’re in a hurry, make sure you pay at the cassa, or cashier, first and then bring the receipt to the barista. It took us way too long to figure out this system. I ordered one of their fresh fruit smoothies and my mouth enjoyed its quick trip to summer and tropical fruit. Eleni continued her trend of caffè al ginseng and while Il Bistrot’s is slightly less sweet than the one at Bar Duomo, it has a wonderful nutty flavor. They have a fine selection of pastries, although you may have to fight a businessman for the last cornetto. Expect to pay a small premium for fresh fruit and waiters with matching buttons downs, but Il Bistrot’s prices are far from extravagant.
Final Score: 7/10 recommend Il Bistrot for fresh fruit smoothies and posh people watching.
For a change of pace and an oasis of calm (and vegan options!), head to TeaPerugia.
The atmosphere of TeaPerugia is as calming as the tea itself and it washes over you as soon as you step inside. The main barista of the bar is a kind soul and tea matchmaker – expect to find your leafy soulmate with her help. She doesn’t speak much English so have Google Translate at the ready if your Italian isn’t quite off the ground yet, but definitely don’t let that keep you from discovering this gem! We both tried the tea she recommended for us; for Eleni it was frutti rossi, the perfect amount of sweet with a distinct flavor. For me, jasmine and green tea blended together perfectly — it smelled as wonderful as it tasted. Unfortunately, there are no caffeine-free options at TeaPerugia, although her stocks change periodically so don’t be afraid to circle back and check again. We also didn’t try the vegan pastries or amazing food options, the only place in Perugia I’ve found that has couscous on the menu, those around us raved about them. Matchmaking comes at a price and TeaPerugia is no different so expect to dig a little further into that wallet for gourmet tea and vegan snacks – more than worth it for the occasional change of pace.
Final Score: 9/10 recommend TeaPerugia when you need to study, want a healthy choice, or need some peace and quiet.
Overall Favorite: Turan Cafe
Turan is a staple of Piazza IV Novembre and for the location alone it deserves 5 stars. More than just a convenient walk from school, Turan has a friendly staff, good selection of pastries, and the richest cioccolata calda in the city. Make sure you order it with panna and savor it nice and slow. Eleni says the coffee is strong and very reasonably priced. They have a rotating selection of desserts and pastries and make their own chocolate in house. Prices at Turan are average for pastries and coffee and their chocolate products, including the best hot chocolate in Perugia, can be a touch more expensive but nothing about Turan, including the price, keeps me from returning day after day.
Final Score: 10/10 recommend Turan for meeting with friends, grabbing a cornetto between classes, sampling some gourmet homemade chocolate, or studying on your own.