Starbucks is set to open in Rome - but can it compete with a local cappuccino?

It’s official: coffee giant Starbucks will set up shop in Rome. The Seattle-born chain has announced plans to open a location near the Vatican Museums in September, with a second store potentially on Piazza di Spagna in the works. The arrival of Starbucks in the Eternal City comes on-the-heels of its debut on Italian soil in Milan last year; the chic metropolis is now home to three Starbucks cafes.

Travel News - The First Original Starbucks Coffee Open In Milan
Advertising for the new Starbucks in Milan. Image by Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Images

While the launch of a chain store proves hardly newsworthy in other countries, Italy is the exception: the bel paese has always revered and fiercely guarded its coffee culture, which starkly contrasts with Starbucks’ format. Costs, for example, differ (a typical cappuccino in Rome costs only €1 (US$.87), while container sizes like “venti” and “grande” are non-existent. And forget about whipped cream and flavored syrups the classic Italian coffee menu is composed of a handful of options. In short, it’s no surprise that the US coffeehouse has taken 47 years to try its luck in Italy.

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Aerial of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican in Rome, as seen from the dome of St. Peter. Image by ©Vadim Bochkarev/Shutterstock

Locals have mixed opinions. Roman student Alice Addestri shares “I think it’s great news, I want my city to become more international. Italy’s coffee tradition will always be here; I don’t see Starbucks as a threat.” Longtime Rome expat Linda Martinez, meanwhile, believes “the beauty of travel is to experience the unique offerings of a place, and Italy has that in spades – coffee and all. I don’t want every city to look and taste the same...I won’t be going to Starbucks.”

Travel News - A Roman breakfast – an espresso and cornetto – served at Pasticceria Linari.
A Roman breakfast : an espresso and cornetto served at Pasticceria Linari. Image by ©River Thompson/Lonely Planet

Dario Fociani, founder of specialty coffee bar Faro says “we are two completely different businesses, industry vs. artisan…Starbucks is multinational, and they’ve opened an impressive location in Milan. I don’t know if it’ll contaminate our sector or improve it. We’ll see.” Today, Starbucks has over 28,000 locations in 78 countries worldwide, bringing in over $22 billion in revenue a year.