Italians consume approximately 30 million espressos per day, from Venice to Sicily, in porcelain cups or small glasses, with or without a splash of milk — and regard each one as a friendly gesture.
“The espresso is an excuse to show a friend you care,” says Massimiliano Rosati, owner of Naples’ Gambrinus cafe, which assisted in preparing the bid for inclusion on the United Nations’ list of intangible cultural heritage.
“They are consumed 24 hours a day, at any hour. It’s a shared moment, a moment of enchantment “AFP reported.
The gleaming machine behind the marble counter clanks and hisses as the barista tamps the ground coffee into the portafilter, clicks it into place, and flicks a switch to spray it with near-boiling water.
‘Floral arrangements, fruits, and chocolate’
According to the Italian Espresso Institute, authentic espresso should have a “round, substantial, and velvety” flavour and a “hazel-brown to dark-brown foam with tawny reflexes.”
It must have a persistent aroma with “notes of flowers, fruits, toasted bread, and chocolate,” according to the institute, which was founded in 1998 to protect espresso.
The agricultural ministry has submitted an application for heritage status to Italy’s national UNESCO commision.
The agricultural ministry has submitted an application for heritage status to Italy’s national UNESCO commision. AFP Alberto PIZZOLI
The agricultural ministry has forwarded the application for heritage status to Italy’s national UNESCO commision, which must submit it to the UN body’s headquarters in Paris by March 31.
Italy already has a number of living traditions and customs on the list, ranging from truffle hunting to the Neapolitan pizza-making art, the Mediterranean diet, and traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona, Antonio Stradivari’s birthplace.
Consuming espresso “is a rite, it’s almost sacred,” retired teacher Annamaria Conte, 70, explained as she entered Gambrinus from the sprawling Piazza del Plebiscito square near Naples’ seafront.
Some prefer cream puffs, mini pizzas, or fried dough balls to accompany their espressos, while others converse between bites.
“When I travel abroad, I see people queuing for coffee, standing in a line one behind the other, perhaps on their iPhones, or reading a book in a corner. That is not the case here “Rosati, the proprietor, stated.
The Gambrinus cafe in Naples aided in the preparation of the bid for inclusion on the United Nations’ list of intangible cultural heritage.
The Gambrinus cafe in Naples aided in the preparation of the bid for inclusion on the United Nations’ list of intangible cultural heritage. AFP Alberto PIZZOLI
“There is still a tradition in some parts of Naples that when you visit someone, you bring sugar and coffee rather than a cake or flowers.”
Angelo Moriondo of Turin patented the first steam espresso machine in 1884, but Desiderio Pavoni of Milan raised the funds necessary to develop and mass produce the large industrial machines.
They would become ubiquitous throughout Italy, with each of the country’s twenty regions producing espressos slightly differently — shorter, longer, more or less intense, and possibly with a side of sparkling water.
“I have a lot of childhood memories of coming here and drinking the coffee, and it’s really good,” tourist Yael Lesin-Davis, 28, said as she sips an espresso with frothed milk and cocoa powder.