The same day I checked out 5e Cinque I also made a stop at Cuculia on Via dei Serragli, which is located a stone’s throw from Ponte Alla Carraia (where – for all you Un-intolerants – is supposedly some of the best gelato in the city) and about 10 minutes away from where I had lunched earlier. Thanks to my poor ability to use a map; however, I came across the small café almost three hours after leaving 5e Cinque because I walked clear in the opposite direction. By the time I arrived at Cuculia I was once again melting from the heat (even at 18:30 there is no respite in the summer). Mind you it was a much welcomed stop since I still had a 25 – 35 minute walk back to where I was staying. Needless to say, by that point of the day I needed something to drink in a bad way.
Since restaurants and cafés tend to be well camouflaged (entrances often blend in with surrounding facades, which is brilliant in terms of keeping garish design and unsightly terraces from overtaking the city) it was a bit tricky to find, but the chalkboard with the little owl/bird motif at the top signaled my arrival with a host of beverages scrawled in white dust. It was all the encouragement I needed to head inside.
The high domed ceilings and white interior helped keep the place cool, though there was air conditioning and a fan in the back that pushed the chilled air around. Wooden tables, aged floorboards and chairs in a lime green accent gave the place a fresh feel and it was easy to relax given the mix of jazz and world music being streamed over the café speakers.
A bookshelf in the back across from the bar was stuffed with titles for sale (bonus points according to my standards and fitting since the café tagline is libreria con cucina or “library with kitchen”). The clientele was a mix of young and old: students, tourists, intellectuals and artist types filled up the tables as the sun went down, and almost everyone was outfitted with a smart phone or computer. Those who were far too hip for technology seemed to be riveted by the thick books they flipped through, some of which came from the ‘for sale’ bookshelf.
In terms of food + drink it wasn’t a bad place to be. The food menu looked ok for light breakfasts and sweet/savoury snacks, though there weren’t a lot of items generally speaking and there certainly wasn’t a lot that was intolerant-friendly: croissants, pie, cakes, toast + condiments made up the bulk of the items. In a deli fridge/cooler next to the bar there were pre-made sandwiches (both open-faced and “closed”), jamón, cookies and biscotti on display, though nothing caught my eye. I’m not sure I would have been able to eat if I were starving. The muesli – without yogurt – seemed to be the least offensive food item, but even then I would be tempted to ask to read the box/bag label – if there was one – to check for gluten + lactose ingredients.
What was great about Cuculia was the atmosphere, the free WiFi and their drinks, which took up most of the menu and had everything under the sun. There were plenty of coffee options (espresso, cappucino, americano, latte, frappucino), teas, wines, smoothies, local beers on tap, iced drinks and juices to choose from including fresh seasonal favourites like orange, apple, grapefruit, peach and kiwi. Over the course of two hours I indulged in two different loose leaf teas. One was a heavy rooibos + spice mix that I DID NOT like (and I tried to get it down, believe me), so I relayed this to the bartender and he was kind enough to take it back and exchange it for a light and fruity berry + ginger tea that went down much better. After another liter of water I also threw back a freshly squeezed grapefruit and a blended peach juice, both of which were fabulous. No extra sugar needed, plenty of flavour and full of vitamins and minerals…exactly how juice should be.
While there wasn’t much to feast on it was a great place to stop and nurse aching feet (and/or knees/lower back…no judgement here) and I enjoyed it so much I found myself returning the following afternoon to rest my weary bones, check my email and get a hit of loose leaf tea and a fresh juice. What more could be asked for on a sweltering day?