Cappuccino with a View

Historic café opposite Urbino’s Ducal Palace marches to its own beat while offering the best of the Marche’s landscape.


URBINO, Italy–Leaning against the door frame of the Bar del Teatro, his reading glasses resting on his head, Carlo Marchionni takes a drag of the Marlboro Red between his thin lips, and stares at the idyllic view before him.

“What is a typical day for a restaurant? For a bar? Waiting, looking at the landscape, waiting for the customers to sit,” Marchionni, 58, said through an interpreter. “Every day is different. Every day is the same.”


A typical Italian breakfast is a cappuccino and a croissant.

In a city with about 25 cafes facing major streets, del Teatro provides a different experience because it has a view equal to the Ducal Palace’s, but a life distinctly its own.

The Palace towers over the cafe to the left; the street Corso Garibaldi lies straight ahead; and the rolling green hills and deer -skin-colored fields ring the city on the right.

“All you need to see is the landscape to know that this cafe is special,” said Ricardo Marchionni, 61, Carlo’s older brother and co-owner. “We have landscape on the left and landscape on the right. It looks like a fairy tale place.”

The scenery is one of the reasons customers continue to stop by throughout the day.

“I like the view. I come for the site, for the landscape,” said Michele Bartolucci, a del Teatro regular.

Marchionni Brothers

The Marchionni brothers have been working together at Bar del Teatro for 28 years.

Bartolucci, a former violin player and Urbino University librarian, has been coming by the cafe at least once a week for five years, usually for breakfast.

“I love coffee, hot coffee with a dash of milk,” said Bartolucci, citing a staple of the Italian breakfast.

Carlo works from 7:30 a.m. until about 3 p.m. Ricardo arrives around 12 to help with the lunch crowd.

“This job is like a mission,” Ricardo said. “You have to listen to the people. It’s not only working. It’s a relationship.”

Roberto Damiani, a professional photographer and another del Teatro regular, visits the cafe every day to get coffee, but not for breakfast. Instead, he stops by in the afternoon.

[pullquote]I love the barman, and I love this place.[/pullquote]

“I love the barman, and I love this place,” Damiani said, eating a lemon popsicle.

The love between customers and barmen is mutual. Ricardo said what he most likes about his job is the contact he has with both young and old people.

“You may see an 18-year-old student who comes to Urbino, and then you may see them when they graduate, and then you might see them after 10 years with their family when they come back to Urbino,” Ricardo said. “Those are the joyful experiences.”

Bar del Teatro

Carlo sits outside Bar del Teatro watching the sunset with a friend and customer before closing for the day.

The voice of an older, plump woman with short, curly, brown hair and frameless glasses ordering coffee is barely audible over the radio, and bubbling cappuccino machine.

“Two coffees … Like you used to make them,” the woman tells Carlo over the stainless steel counter.

“Like we used to make them? But you know, things have changed over time,” Carlo said.

After being closed for over 30 years, the café reopened on July 31, 1984, a Saturday afternoon that hasn’t faded a bit in the memory of Ricardo and Giorgio, the eldest Marchionni brother.

Ricardo remembers the grand opening going on all day long.

“It was very beautiful, very exhausting, but it’s very nice to remember,” he said.

The activity of the cafe dies down after lunch. Carlo whistles along to American and Italian music playing faintly on the radio inside while he cleans up. Customers read la Repubblica, the second-largest national newspaper, drink a Coke, or just stare mesmerized at the view. Ricardo sits at a table in the corner, working on the newspaper crossword puzzle.

A few hours after the sun goes down, Ricardo closes for the night around 10:30 p.m.

“It’s a nice cafe, a nice view, nice people inside, that’s it,” Carlo said. “Basta.”