It is a little confusing to understand what is what for what we commonly call “bar.”
Definition: A public place, where beverages or soft food, can be consumed, either seated or standing.
Bar, is the genetic name for the place where you can get your “espresso”. But then there is “Bar Pasticceria”, “Caffè… followed by other creative names”, even “Gran Caffè XX”.
This is a little guide:
Every simple Bar, serves also brioches in the morning, aperitivo around noon and after 5:00 pm, some specialize in drinks in the evening.
Bar Pasticceria usually offers a good choice of pastries, most to take away. Some (Pasticceria only) specialize in pastries only; usually made in the same building. These usually close in the early afternoon, as their business concentrated in morning breakfasts and patisserie.
Caffè [followed by a creative name] is a more inviting place where to spend more than just a quick-espresso-standing-time. These are crowd-gathering places. Some offer also quick snacks/lunches, or even Brunch. In the evening they may hold events such book presentations, or music.
Gran Caffé, that is the national pride. If not all, most cities have one. They are usually in a prime location, occupying historical buildings with antiques decors. And usually have a list of famous names among their guests during their long history. For example Hemingway in Venice, James Joyce in Trieste (apparently that’s where he wrote “The Dubliners”), Wagner, Bizet, Goethe, Stendhal in Rome, and so on.
These “Gran Caffè” are all worth a visit, and not just to drink an espresso, but to visit like a small museum, or like at the Florian to enjoy the music in Piazza San Marco. Yeah, it’s expensive, but you can hang in there for hours.
Here are some notable caffès:
ANTICO CAFFÈ GRECO (ROMA)
CAFFÈ REVOIRE (FIRENZE)
GRAN CAFFÈ GAMBRINUS (NAPOLI)
CAFFÈ BARATTI & MILANO (TORINO)
CAFFÈ DEGLI SPECCHI (TRIESTE)
CAFFÈ GARIBALDI (VICENZA)
CAFFÈ CONTARENA (UDINE)
ANTICO CAFFÈ SPINNATO (PALERMO)