The sharing economy seems to be changing how we manage fundamental parts of our lives. Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Zipcar are dramatically altering transportation, travel and our relationship to these services. It is not without controversy though, and it remains to be seen how we reconcile some of these very necessary services with other important factors such as insurance, safety, liveable wages and unionization, not to mention the housing cost crisis in many popular destinations here in the U.S. and abroad.

As 2014 comes to a close, and the U.S. economy strengthens, more and more “sharing” seems to be happening. Even in my little sleepy San Francisco neighborhood these free street libraries are popping up and the robust trading of garden harvests is bringing people together and making use of food that might just rot on the vine otherwise.

A recent article in the New York Times typified the small gestures of sharing that can make an impact on people’s lives. In Naples, and across Italy, the idea of paying something forward, albeit as minimal as a coffee, is  being revived and taking root. A simple anonymous gesture, paying for an extra cup of coffee for a future needy patron or simply as an act of kindness has a lovely aroma to it.

Coffee, long a religious part of daily life in many countries, is of course now almost as important to U.S. java lovers. I know I love a special cappuccino, latte or fresh roasted and brewed cup when I’m out and about, but have curbed my habit a bit in recent years while pinching my pennies. I’m not going to pay for my kids’ college education on saved lattes but you get my point.

The “suspended coffee” or caffè sospeso is a Neapolitan tradition that boomed during the Second World War and has had a renaissance in recent years in reaction to tough economic times.

Drinking coffee in Naples, other parts of Italy and many places in Europe is both a ritual and often done in community. Cafes are the hub of social and cultural life and an espresso among friends is never considered a luxury or treat, just part of life’s daily rhythm.

Wouldn’t you be charmed to walk into an Italian cafe and be offered a free coffee, paid for by a local patron? Better yet, how about as a traveler doing this for the locals? A small act of kindness that could make someone’s day.

A network of bars and cafes across Italy now display the suspended coffee sign and the act of goodwill based on the Italian tradition is spreading across the world, from the UK to India to places in the U.S. The robust social media presence is spreading the word and the warmth that a great cup of joe can bring to a weary traveler or hard working local.

Filed Under Cafe, Culture, Europe, Food, Italy, North America, Pubs, Restaurants, United States


Leave a Reply