In the past ten years, there has been something of a coffee revolution in Florence, with trendy cafes such as Ditta Artigianale adding variety to the traditional espresso al bar. Phoebe Hunt casts aside her personal doubts and spends the morning “cupping” coffee at Ditta’s new Scuola del Caffè in the piazza Sant’Ambrogio.
Ditta Artigianale’s Scuola del Caffè coffee academy
Every city must have its own chain of comfortingly generic American coffee shops. A place where you can eat a piece of red velvet cake at 10 a.m. without being judged and sip an Americano while studying or working for a few hours in complete anonymity. In Florence, where Costa or Starbucks have not yet established a presence in the city centre, Ditta Artigianale is the closest we have to an American-style coffee shop.
The fact is, despite their outward appearances as an international brand—trendy t-shirts and merchandise; motivational quotes in neon; staff who speak English—the Ditta team is extremely concerned with the quality of their coffee. Francesco Sanapo, the company’s founder, typically spends several months a year travelling to plantations and meeting with producers to establish a direct relationship and improve the traceability of each coffee bean. “Having such a high-quality product, our objective is to make the customer comprehend and value everything that goes into each bean. “The most effective method is to communicate who we are, our philosophy, and how much we care about our product,” explains Sanapo.
The director of the Scuola, Simone Amenini, invited me to participate in a coffee tasting workshop one Saturday morning. Simone was the head barista at Ditta Artigianale for five years, which, according to him, “allowed me to increase my coffee knowledge and my passion for this wonderful world. Communicating to customers why Ditta is unique quickly became my primary objective. Working at the counter every day and brewing some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted inspired me to share this joy with customers and coworkers.”
Simone speculates that Francesco’s decision to entrust him with the management of the coffee school upon its launch in 2021 was likely a result of his enthusiasm. Simone explains that Scuola del Caffè was created to serve as a new reference point in Florence’s quality coffee scene. Our philosophy is shaped by many years of experience running Ditta and innovating ways to help people understand and appreciate coffee.
The school offers multiple levels of training, including professional training, in-depth study for coffee enthusiasts, and multisensory experiences for organised groups. There are simple coffee tastings for 25 euros and a variety of activities based on the theme “An Introduction to the World of Coffee” for caffeine enthusiasts who just want a fun morning honing their palate and learning more about the beans. In the meantime, aspiring professionals can enrol in the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) course line offered by the school: three modules that culminate in a coffee certificate. Last but not least, there are also individualised training programmes in all aspects of being a barista, based on the needs and desires of the student.