I walk in and see a handful of people at the bar and a couple of older folks sitting down at simple, IKEA-looking tables. On the bar, there are empty espresso and cappuccino cups with torn up sugar packets and a small spoon with a coffee stain.
No matter the establishment — higher-end with older, wooden furnishings or a hole-in-the-wall — the operation works generally the same. Usually, it’s an older woman behind the counter, though men are hardly rare. They’re in their 50s or 60s. This woman looks serious and on the older side.
“Ciao,” she says followed by a quick, “Dimi.”
I know what she wants me to do now and I’ve even practiced some Italian before this trip. In fact, I’m slightly impressed with myself for recognizing the less-universally known “dimi” to mean “tell me” as in “what’s your order?” The similarities between Italian and Spanish are playing to my favor.
But the confidence and clarity with which I rolled my Rs and annunciated my Memrise vocabulary from the comfort of my couch is gone. Now at the opportune moment, I stumble and mumble like I’m mocking the French language.
“Un caffè” I spit out finally. “E un…” and I pause. What’s next isn’t even Italian, you fool!
“Sì, per favore.”
She slaps a small plate in front of me with a spoon while she gets the croissant. This is my colazione for the day — the Italian breakfast.
I get the croissant first and have time to nibble away as she serves other customers, slaps more plates around, collects used cups, and shoots the breeze with regular customers coming and going.
“A domani!” she shouts to someone she knows is coming back tomorrow.
Then, my espresso is ready.
“Prego,” she offers in passing as she hands out espressos to other customers.
There’s a lull, so she starts collecting cleaned plates until another regular (or a friend?) drops by for some quick verbal jarring before they’re off again.
The croissant is gone, save the crumbs on my plate, and I take my last sip. In all the whole experience lasts no more than 5 or 10 minutes, beating even German fantasies of efficiency.
I pay my €2.20 and head for the door, back out onto Verona’s Piazza Bra where the arena sits, a smaller, but remarkably similar copy of the famous Roman Colosseum.
“Ciao, buona giornata,” I say with a smile after warming up my jaw.