There you are waltzing Rome’s cobblestone streets, hankering for a caffeine break, when you spot a sandwich board advertising €1 coffees. Done! You grab a table and sip a rich, steamy espresso. It tastes great. The caffeine rush is better. Ready to continue sightseeing, you drop a euro coin on the table before noticing the bill says €3. What?! But the sign says €1 coffees! It’s a scam!
Well, no. It’s not a scam. Instead, you’ve been up-charged. Discreetly up-charged. Don’t get angry at an unexpected charge. That €1 coffee you saw advertised? That’s the standing-at-the-bar cost. The price jumps when you sit at a table. While lounging with your drink is relaxing, it can cost you more money in Italy’s popular tourist cities, like Rome (and Venice, Florence, etc).
One Cafe. Two Prices.
Specifically, establishments with a standing bar-top like bars, ice cream parlors, pizzerias and cafes have two menu prices. One for patrons who order and stand at the bar. And one for those who sit at a table. Therefore, it may be cheaper if you opt to stand while eating or drinking.
Sometimes, the price for sitting is double or even triple the price for standing. Why? Customers are more likely to finish their food or drinks quickly if they’re standing. So the cheaper prices encourage quick turnover. Furthermore, servers don’t expect tips in Rome. So the extra money you pay for sitting helps cover the wages of the additional work of the servers.
Now, not all establishments have this pricing scheme. Restaurants, where everyone expects to sit back and enjoy a leisurely meal, typically only have a single price list. The bar is the indicator. If the place has a standing bar, then expect it to offer two prices for drinks and food.
Stand or Sit?
There are several things to consider before you decide whether to sit or stand while grabbing a drink or some ice cream in Rome. First, look at the prices on the menu and see just how big of a difference there is. Even if you’re hoping to sit at a table, you may change your mind once you see how many euros you could save by standing at the bar. In addition, consider your own personal needs. If you’ve spent a long day sightseeing around the city and your feet are killing you, paying a little more for a table and chair may be worthwhile.
Finally, don’t forget to consider the setting. Locals, who get to enjoy the city every day, opt to stand for the cheaper price. For them, the ideal situation is to order, toss back their drink and be on their way in a few minutes. However, you’re in the city to sightsee. And if the cafe or bar has outdoor seating that allows you to enjoy a beautiful piazza with monuments, fountains and people-watching, seize the opportunity to have a leisurely drink at a cozy table. Here, view the extra few euros as an admission price!
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