In Italy, a spiritual search for the essence of espresso

For the espresso obsessed (like me), visiting Italy is like journeying to Mecca: Caffeine-loving crusaders seek answers by crossing time, language and cultural barriers to visit the drink’s motherland. And although it’s not a sip from an Islamic holy well, this potent secular beverage does transport devotees to a higher plane — if only until the jitters wear off.

Sacred spots are scattered across Italy: Each major city has its own coffee tradition, and limiting myself to one or two would feel as incomplete as sticking to decaf. As a barbecue fanatic must bounce not only between the Carolinas but also through Missouri, Tennessee and Texas for meaty enlightenment, I won’t fulfill my pilgrimage simply by slugging a few espresso shots in Rome.

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