‘One for every district’: Starbucks begins southern expansion in central Rome

American coffee giant Starbucks opened the doors to its first outlet in Rome's historic centre on Thursday, as the company announced plans for more branches across the capital as well as in Naples and Bari.

'One for every district': Starbucks begins southern expansion in central Rome
Customers queue outside the new Starbucks branch in central Rome shortly after it opened on Thursday, May 11th. Photo: Elaine Allaby/The Local Italy

Rome residents and visitors queued down the street on Thursday to get a taste of Starbucks’ newest opening in Italy, as the multinational opened the doors to its first branch in Rome.

The latest outlet in Italy, where the company has some 26 stores already, opened in a refurbished two-storey building opposite the Italian parliament building, Palazzo Montecitorio, in the heart of Rome’s historic centre.

The menu featured Starbucks’ controversial new olive oil-infused coffee drinks as well as espresso priced at €1.40 or €2.80 – compared to the typical price locally of around €1.

While the shop’s signage was discreet, a small crowd was gathered outside on Thursday to snap photos and comment on the new addition.

“I have to take a photo for my daughter,” commented one, while another passer-by said of the arrival: “This is really bad for Rome.”

READ ALSO: Where, when and how to drink coffee like an Italian

Thursday’s opening came around a year after a branch opened its doors at the Castel Romano shopping centre in the city’s suburbs.

Though views on the chain’s presence in Italy are decidedly mixed, the latest opening appeared to prove the success of the US company’s operations in Italy as it marked the first step in a major expansion into the south of country.

The new Starbucks branch in central Rome after it opened on Thursday, May 11th. Photo: Elaine Allaby/The Local Italy

Vincenzo Catrambone, General Manager of Starbucks for Percassi, the coffee giant’s partner in Italy, stated on Thursday: “In Rome, the goal is to open several branches, one for each district in the capital.”

“After the opening in Milan, we received many requests to open in Rome and finally today we are in the heart of the city.”

He confirmed that two outlets would open at the city’s main Termini train station “in a few days”, with one branch to be located upstairs and the other on the ground floor according to local media reports.

Another store is set to open in Genoa next week.

The company also announced on Thursday morning that it is planning to open branches in Naples and Bari as it pushes ahead with an expansion further south.

The company is planning to open 13 more Italian outlets this year, reaching a total of 36 across the country. 

Starbucks has been operating in wealthier northern Italy since it first opened in Milan in 2018, when there were widespread predictions of its imminent failure in a country famed as Europe’s coffee capital and the home of espresso shots drunk standing at the counter at family-owned bars. 

But the south of the country – where tradition is stronger and disposable incomes lower – is seen by multinational fast-food chains as a harder market to crack.

Member comments

  1. I’m guessing most customers will be tourists, which is also exactly why they are doing Termini next.

  2. We are from the U.S. but retired abroad (not in Italy). We avoid the U.S. franchises here, of course, but they are very novel to the local people, which is fine. As long as they succeed, it’s good for our economy! And we do not need to drink Starbucks coffee in Italy.

  3. As an American living in Italy, I feel I should for this abomination. This is most readily-available “espresso type” drinks available in America, and they actually think they taste good. On my first visit back after living her for a year, I took one sip and threw it out. Did not drink any coffee for the next two weeks…until I returned to Italy.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Is burrata overtaking mozzarella to become the most popular Italian cheese?

Mozzarella has long been Italy's most famous soft cheese, but producers now say burrata has overtaken it after becoming a favourite among international chefs.

Is burrata overtaking mozzarella to become the most popular Italian cheese?

Mozzarella cheese has for years been one of the best-known and most popular Italian foods worldwide – as symbolic of the national cuisine as spaghetti or tiramisu.

But there’s a surprising shift taking place, as burrata, a soft, white cheese often similar in shape and size to mozzarella but with a delicate, cream-filled centre, now appears to be overtaking it in popularity both in Italy and abroad.

Burrata is now the most popular Italian cheese in Italy, Spain, France and the UK, according to one survey by international restaurant booking platform TheFork.

READ ALSO: Are these Italian cheeses really the best in the world?

Their research looked at the number of online searches for keywords related to Italian dairy products over the past 12 months in these four countries, and in all cases burrata came ahead of mozzarella. 

In Italy, burrata was the fifth most popular search term, with mozzarella coming seventh, the study found.

Burrata cheese can be a similar shape and size to mozzarella, but its soft, creamy centre has converted many international chefs. Photo by Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash

This trend mirrored the controversial findings of the TasteAtlas World Atlas of Traditional Cuisine earlier in 2023, which placed eight Italian cheeses in the world’s top ten, with burrata in third place and mozzarella (specifically mozzarella di bufala campana DOP) in seventh.

This ranking drew international attention after its publication in February – particularly in France, as no French cheeses at all were included in the top ten.

The rising popularity of burrata in Italy and abroad means producers are now rushing to increase their production capacity, according to Italian news reports.

Burrata is produced in the southern Italian region of Puglia, which has held the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) designation for the cheese since 2016.

READ ALSO: DOP and PGI: What do Italy’s food and wine labels really mean?

The Deliziosa cheese company in Noci, in the province of Bari, has recently invested €10 million into installing four new burrata production and packaging lines, set to double production capacity by the summer of 2024, according to newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The company says burrata already surpasses mozzarella in terms of turnover, accounting for half of its €126 million revenue in 2022. 

A significant portion of this production is destined for international markets, with exports making up approximately 40 percent.

Company owner Giovanni D’Ambruoso says burrata’s rise to international fame began in 2017 as more producers travelled to international food fairs such as those in Cologne and Paris.

“I remember that when we went to Cologne in 2015, the only burrata was ours; from 2017 onwards, everyone had it. I would say that burrata became international six years ago.”

He says international chefs had also “helped us a lot in promoting burrata by using it in many dishes abroad.”

However, producers warn that this international recognition has inspired the creation of “imitation” burrata, as already happens with mozzarella, when similar-looking products are made outside of the IGP area or even outside of Italy.

“There are more and more imitative foreign products that evoke burrata,” states Francesco Mennea, director of the Consorzio di Tutela della Burrata di Andria IGP, the protection consortium for burrata in the province of Andria.

EXPLAINED: What’s the difference between parmesan cheese and Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano?

In Puglia, both burrata and mozzarella are traditionally made by hand, and local producers say this is what sets the IGP product apart.

“Now that everyone is producing burrata, in Italy and abroad, we are trying to make a difference by still making it by hand. We only need machines for the post-production stage,” D’Ambruoso says.

The growing trade in counterfeit versions of Italian food and drink – from imitation prosecco to ‘parma’ ham – was worth 120 billion euros in 2023, according to farmers’ association Coldiretti.