It's late Friday morning. It's a beautiful, sunny autumn day, I've got no classes until 5.00 and life is good. I've had a few chores to do around the town, and I find myself in Campo San Luca with a bit of time to kill. A coffee seems like a good idea, but where to go?
BlackJack is a decent bar that we've made use of a couple of times (good spritz, good snacks), and Marchini is a splendid pasticceria. And then I think, Bar Torino. I've never been to Bar Torino. I've walked past it any number of times, sometimes late at night when there's been a band on, but never actually gone in. I'll give it a go.
I seem to remember that it was once regarded as being quite hip, but it feels a bit shabby and run-down, and the Jack Vettriano prints on the wall give it a slightly sleazy feel. An American tourist is trying to gently prod a wandering pigeon back outside. I ask for a coffee. The barista smiles.
I nod. Si si. But this is a bad start. Nobody ever asks you if you want an espresso. He thinks I'm a tourist.
My coffee arrives, a sad little brown puddle that cools instantly at the bottom of an outsized cappuccino cup. It's rare to get a cup of coffee over here that's actually bad, but this is about as poor as it gets.
I've not brought a newspaper or anything to read, and I'm in no mood to linger anyway. I take some change from my pocket. I know that I'm about to get ripped off. The only question is by how much.
- One euro fifty.
I almost laugh. That's 50% more than almost every other bar in town. And given that the price of a coffee al banco is fixed by law, I suspect it's probably illegal as well.
- One euro fifty? For a coffee al banco?
- It's the price in Venice.
- No, it's not. I've lived here for four years and I've never paid one euro fifty. I don't even pay that at Quadri.
We stare at each other in silence. I could, I suppose, make a scene but it's not worth it for fifty cents. In fact the sheer bare-faced, we-don't-give-a-!$£* attitude is almost funny. Although I suspect I'd find it less so if I were a tourist being scammed ridiculous sums of money for some dismal-looking food.
I slide the money over the counter.
- This is the tourist price, isn't it?
He shrugs again and turns away.
Whatever. I console myself with the thought that a cappuccino and brioche might have necessitated the use of a credit card. I walk back outside, into the sun, and check my watch. Still a few minutes left. Just time for a coffee at Marchini.