When you first walk into a crowded coffee shop, or “bar” as they are referred to here in Italy – you are likely to be overwhelmed. They’re often packed with people crowding around the “bar” – hence the name, ma certo – loudly calling out for their pastry or espresso “caffe normale.” Many of these hang-outs are so small and busy – you may be tempted to turn and leave before bellying up to the bar to select an item for yourself from behind the glass.
That’s how it first seemed for me at Arezzo’s Bar il Duomo. As its name implies, the bar is located just steps away from Arezzo’s cathedral, or duomo, along Via Ricasoli. It is a very popular place – especially in the mornings when locals jam in to slam a coffee and a pastry, or pasta, which makes for the standard breakfast, or colazione, for most Italians.
But the 500-year-old building Bar il Duomo is nestled in is so charming with its high arches and stone cornices, that Lulu and I braved the crowds and fell in love. Not only with the pastries – (and for Lulu, the ice cream) but also because Bar il Duomo doesn’t only open its imposing wooden doors each morning, the Rossi family that runs it: (Giancarlo, wife Lucia and their grown-son Andrea -along with his girlfriend Franci) – also open their hearts.
While we lived next door to the bar, at Via Ricasoli 2, we were more than neighbors, we became like family. Lulu and I popped in practically every morning before school for a small pastry (order a little sacchetino and you won’t be disappointed). And after school for an ice cream. They kindly lent Scotty a gigantic wrench when the ancient radiators at our palazzo were leaking last winter.
And I couldn’t let Christmas-time go by without snapping a photo of their awesome Nativity-Scene-in-a-Wine-Cask that Lucia proudly displayed on the bar. Baby Gesu in a wine bottle. Now, that’s Italian!
Their tremendous kindness, the great coffee and snacks, plus the extra bonus of a splendid open-air courtyard in the back, made for another home-away-from-home for us during out stay here in Arezzo.
As I type this, I have just dropped Lulu off at her last day of school at Aliotti. We stopped in (as usual) for a “treccia di cioccolato” – Lulu’s favorite- and Arezzo’s mayor, Giuseppe Fanfani, who was in the bar at the time, hugged Lulu and wouldn’t let me pay for the treat. Now I am back in the back on my computer – looking out at the bright red geraniums that Lucia lovingly cared for all winter and are now filling the courtyard with happy color.
I am filled with happiness too, as I look back on the many Aretini who welcomed us into our lives during our three years in Arezzo. To them, like the family at Bar il Duomo, thank you for making us feel like family.
Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.