Coffee in Naples

There are many stories behind the arrival of coffee in Naples and its incredible impact on Neapolitan culture; however, it is impossible to establish precisely which is the most reliable.

A first version of the story tells that the rite of coffee was introduced in Naples by Maria Carolina of Habsburg Lorraine from Vienna, after her marriage to Ferdinando di Borbone. It seems that she was the first one to spread the habit of coffee-croissant pairing, recommended by her sister Marie Antoinette of France.

A second version on the introduction of coffee in Naples sees as protagonist the musicologist Pietro Della Valle, Roman by origin but Neapolitan by adoption. He went to the Holy land on pilgrimage, where he discovered the benefits of that famous beverage, coffee, as attested by numerous letters he sent to its Neapolitan friends.

Back home, 12 years later, Della Valle brought with him green coffee beans, introducing the rite of coffee to Neapolitan people.

Whether it reached Naples through the mediation of these interesting characters or simply through commercial exchanges, coffee, at the end of the 18th century, was still consumed only by a restricted elite.

An important role in its diffusion was played by Vincenzo Corrado, famous courtier gastronome who, between the 18th and 19th century, praised coffee in his writing “The Maneuver of Chocolate and Coffee”; However, while chocolate was celebrated by a cantata of the composer and reformer of the melodrama, Pietro Metastasio, coffee was related to a simple and humble “Canzonetta in defense of coffee” written by Nicola Valletta, explaining that coffee was not a bad luck beverage, rather it ensured prosperity and health.

Soon in Naples was invented the famous Neapolitan coffee maker, the so-called “Caffettiera” (coffee maker), forerunner of the Moka; that allowed to abandon the Turkish system of coffee infusion and to produce the worldwide famous dark and full-bodied coffee.

Even with the subsequent invention of the Espresso machine, it was preferred to keep the dark roast blend of which Neapolitans had quickly become great masters to the extent that born the so-called “Espresso Napolitano”.


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