Man is born free and everywhere he is drinking coffee in chains like Starbucks and Costa.

With a checkered history of philistine and fascist leaders, Italy may struggle to convince you that it is the land of liberty; but when it comes to the aesthetics of caffeine and cake consumption, it is a country where an independent spirit still reigns supreme.

Here, the high streets are not dominated by the standardised coffee shop brands but has bars with an identity as individual as the people who run them. They are emblems of emancipation in a sea of uniformity.

The best pride themselves on an attention to detail that is truly heartwarming in these drab times.

The bearded utopian, William Morris, once wrote that you should “have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. The finest Italian bars transfer this philosophy out of the domestic setting with a confident choice of furnishing, decor and lighting which effortlessly manages to marry functionality with  elegance.

The economy may be in free fall, but there is something consoling in the thought that these coffee bars will be the last to hit the ground.

In my home town of Cesena in Emilia-Romagna, these are my top five favourite bars:

1. Caffè Zampanò, Corso Garibaldi, 52

Caffè Zampanò

Named after the lead character of Fellini’s La Strada, this is an ideal bar for those who prefer to lounge and linger.

Aside from the usual coffee, cappuccino and cakes, there is a full range of special teas and freshly made snacks.

With free wi-fi and a wide selection of newspapers you are positively encouraged to take your time and ease yourself gently into the day.

The decor of pine furnishing is simple, erring towards the rustic, but the fact that the walls are given over to local artists and photographers gives an arty feel too.

2. Acquadolce, Via IV Novembre, 570

Acquadolce – the signs point the way to bar heaven!

This used to be a gas station but has been transformed into a stylish bar in a great location alongside the River Savio and right next to the Ponte Vecchio.

With elegant seating for al fresco lovers, it offers creative fruit and vegetable juices and fine selection of vegan cakes.

Healthy lunches and evening cocktails make this a bar with something special to offer throughout the day.

3. Pappa Reale, Via Fra’ Michelino, 1

Pappa Reale

On the fringes of the town’s Piazza del Popolo, this is another bar where location adds to its appeal.

The previous owners didn’t take advantage of this, but the premises have been completely transformed with a real sense of style. It has seating indoors and out, wi-fi, smoothies, fantastic cakes and savouries; what’s not to like?

4. Pasticceria Claudio, Via Viareggio, 85

The is the one bar on this list that is not in the town centre but worth a short excursion to savour the taste of truly exceptional cakes.

Not such a great place if you want to take your time as seating is at a premium and it gets very crowded – the pastries more than make up for these disadvantages.

5. Chiosco, Viale Carducci – Giardini Savelli, 20

Chiosco – summer style

If you want to enjoy Claudio’s cakes in a more elegant, outdoor setting, the Chiosco is the place to head for.

The bar is created out of an ex-band stand and for summer days this is place where families and posers rub shoulders to enjoy summer drinks and great coffee.

More and more people these days are asking me what keeps me in Italy, especially when they hear that I used to live in London.

The above list gives five good reasons to explain why I’m staying put for the forseeable future.

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