MY MOST EXPENSIVE COFFEE EVER – at least it was Italian

You cost how much???

You’re costing me how much???



If you’re charging outrageous prices in your cafe, you have to think ‘Location, location, location.’ It’s not about the coffee, it’s about the experience – the privilege of sitting where you’re sitting.

Two memorably overpriced coffees in my travel experience were on Paris’s elegant Boulevard Saint Germain and in Sienna’s wonderful Piazza del Campo. Today’s double espresso beat them both hands down in the price department.

Friends and the guidebook had recommended Caffe Florian, though both warned that it would be a budget-blowing afternoon.

It was established in 1720, making it arguably the world’s oldest continuously operating cafe. Add a cent per year history surcharge.

The Florian Interior.

The Florian Interior. It looks more expensive than your average neighbourhood cafe, doesn’t it?

Then there’s that location charge. St Mark’s Square, Venice. That will be another two euros, prego.

St Mark's Square, Venice, is one of the most famous  places in the world.

St Mark’s Square, Venice, is one of the most famous places in the world.

My doppio came served on a silver platter, with Mevrouw T’s bottle of Perrier (ordered separately), a flask of water and a bowl of potato crisps. Add a few euros for ‘complimentary’ crisps.

Almost a meal in itself? Not quite.

Almost a meal in itself? Not quite.

Mevrouw T seems very pleased with her Perrier.

Mevrouw T seems very pleased with her Perrier. Tasted just like water with bubbles.

Then there was the music. The guidebook had told us there would be an additional fee when the band was playing. It didn’t say how much.

The best of Henry Mancini and 'When the Saints Go Marching In.' Worth a 6 euros a head surcharge?

The best of Henry Mancini and ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ Worth 6 euros a head?

Some of our fellow customers made sure they got their money’s worth by dancing between the tables.

Some of  our fellow customers made sure they got their money's worth by dancing between the tables. We salute you!

Free entertainment. We salute you!

Time to pay the bill. You have to laugh.

Here's the damage. 28 euros for a double espresso and a 200ml bottle of Perrier.

Here’s the damage. 28 euros for a double espresso and a 200ml bottle of Perrier.

I presume these guys just work here, for a basic wage. But the one behind the bar seems very cheerful. Surely he's not the owner?

I presume these guys just work here for wages. But the one behind the bar seems very cheerful. Could he be the owner?

There was a small additional payment required for use of the bathroom.

A few minutes after we left came the serious hit. In all the excitement I’d left my sunglasses (Rebel Sport, Sydney, cost $50) on the velvet seat. I rushed back inside to find the waiter waiting. ‘You lost…?’ He produced the missing shades, thus earning his tip.

I don’t know why I’m so excited about this indulgence. Think of the starving children in Africa and all that. But it is a story, maybe even one I can write up properly and sell to a publication somewhere. Whether it will be worth more than 30 euros remains to be seen.

Please feel free to recommend other places the budget-conscious traveller should avoid.

27 Comments

Filed under Italy

27 responses to “MY MOST EXPENSIVE COFFEE EVER – at least it was Italian

  1. I was just doing the conversion on that – at 14 ZA Rand to the Euro, that would be about 430 Rand. Falling off my chair….

  2. At least you have will a lasting memory on the occasion.

  3. Gian Banchero

    Thankfully I started my visits to Italy 45 years ago when it was actually possible to travel the land on $5 a day (really!). In those days a cuppa in Piazza San Marco cost only fifty cents, yet I complained.

  4. The expression on your face is priceless, Richard. You got the bill and we got the story. Did they have any T shirts?

  5. Angela Highstead

    “Oh Richard”. I spent three weeks at the Dante Alighieri language school in Siena last year. I stumbled on a local bar just around the corner from said school(only a stone throw from Il Campo); on the first day the owner said, “No service charge”. Espresso, macchiato, cappucino – one euro each, bomboloni – one euro. Breakfast on a Sunday morn – four euro fifty and that was with il cappucino. I kept texting my husband saying, “What is wrong with Australia/” I never heard a word of English there – which was good for my language practice of course. I saw people at Il Campo being treated quite rudely if they overstayed their welcome. I received a hug and a kiss from the proprietor and his dad on my last day before I left for Rome and then Oz. The highs and lows of travel eh? Ain’t it great?

  6. Those Venetians. I can recommend Harry’s Bar for another very pricey experience. Well aware we were paying for the experience, the history, all of that. And the Bellinis were fabulous. Which softened the blow somewhat as we hit the floor when the bill arrived. That was 20 years ago, so I would expect it to be even more exxy now. Was still very cool, though.

  7. Julietta

    Caffe Greco in Rome, bottom of Spanish Steps, Shelley and Keats were customers. 12 euro for an espresso and some water, as I recall. Whatever it was, it was eye wateringly expensive. But at least they didn’t have “la musica”.

  8. Hazel Jeannes

    Well, you either go or you don’t ….. but the question is … was it most enjoyable? Sometimes it’s not about the money, even by ZAR exchange rate

  9. Be fair Richard, €12 for the music is an absolute bargain!

    The first time I went to Venice I stopped for a beer there and the shock of the bill nearly caused me to pass out! I have been back to Venice several times but never again to the Café Florian.

  10. Ruth Starke

    Never EVER take refreshment in a cafe/ bar with a famous view unless money is no object.

  11. Richard I just converted that…$44. Wow…WOW! I reckon that makes a hell of story.

  12. We will be in Venice tomorrow for 5 days. I have been to Florian and we had a spritz, the cheapest thing on the menu. It was worth every bit of wha we paid for the experience.
    Vedova near Ca’D’Oro is a good, cheap place to eat in Venice.

  13. My favourite coffees are the ones you get at McDonalds – usually on the Calder or Hume Highways – on the way to a folk festival or a bush walk. They’re a bit pricey, too, but they’re worth it.

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