Naples is a city where coffee is woven into the fabric of everyday life, and the tradition of caffè sospeso is part of it. The custom of “suspended coffee,” may relate to the history behind today’s pay it forward practice; it involves buying a coffee for yourself, and then purchasing another one for someone else as an act of kindness.
Italians began this practice during a time of economic hardship, when those without jobs were not able to afford even the price of a coffee. Today, customers leave their receipt, which says sospeso, in a marked container. When others come in, they can take out a receipt and hand it to the barista. She is happy to provide each with an espresso that they drink standing up in true Italian style.
Many coffee houses in Naples adhere to this heartfelt tradition. I feel privileged to witness this Italian courtesy at its place of origin, the historic Gran Caffè Gambrinus.
Established in 1860, this prominent coffee house in Piazza Plebiscito, near the Palazzo Real and the Teatro San Carlo is the place to go for caffè and pastries in Naples.
Here, an oversized old brown Italian Moka coffeepot sits in a prominent location at the front of the shop. Its lid is open. I can see where customers leave caffè sospeso receipts. To make life easy, a sign explains about the suspended coffee ritual and how to donate a coffee. The instructions are in six languages, including the Neapolitan dialect.
The words here are from a page in Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast, my recently published photo book.
If you like this post, you may be interested in my book, available either on Amazon.com, or directly through me. I’d be happy to send you an autographed copy for the same price ($24.99) plus shipping ($5.01). International shipping costs are higher. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever paid it forward? I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave a comment.
Ciao and grazie.
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