By Divya Dhawan / Contributor || Edited by Jacopo Menichincheri
ROME — American and Italian students’ perceptions of coffee prices differ amidst price rise due to inflation. While a €2.50 cappuccino is seen as a fair price in Trastevere for Americans consumers with the United States national average of €4.65, Italian students feel the impact of inflation in the coffee, paying an average of 19 cents more for a cappuccino over the past 4 years, with Italy’s national cappuccino average at €1.47.
The rise in price can be attributed to the post pandemic inflation impacting the cost of raw materials, but also to climate change affecting crops and the war between Russia and the Ukraine. The war is the most recent contributor to this price surge, and the one felt the most by Italians around Trastevere.
Azzurra Bisciardi, a JCU Italian student said that she has not seen an impact in prices from the pandemic but from the war.
The war has had such a great impact on the prices in the area because it has increased the price of gas and utilities. Italy imports almost all of its gas, 40% of which came from its main supplier of natural gas— Russia. Recent sanctions are causing Italy to seek resources from Algeria and Azerbaijan, causing European fuel to increase 60%.
Global energy prices have also been impacted by inflation from the war. Electricity prices have grown more than 80% compared to third period reports from last year.
Mr. Shmon, an owner and operator of Minimarket da Nidai who preferred not to be identified by his first name, said that inflation has impacted business severely, but the cost of goods is easy to offset, its utilities have skyrocketed the most.
Luciano Massarri, owner of a butcher shop in Maccarese, a small town a few kilometers from Rome, said in an interview to Anadolu Agency that electricity costs have already reached “unsustainable levels,” with bills rising to €1,400 and he expects the situation to worsen.
Despite higher prices, American students, a majority of the customers in Trastevere cafes, said they do not mind paying premium prices.
Elena Leeds, a JCU study abroad student from New York City, pays $8 dollars for her daily cup of coffee. With the current euro to dollar parity of 1 euro equivalent to 1.02 dollars, she doesn’t mind paying up to $4 dollars on a cappuccino in Italy.
In the U.S the level of inflation is surpassing wage growth and as minimum wage increases, the cost of living along with daily purchases such as coffee reflect a higher price. In New York City, the minimum wage is $14.20 dollars an hour.
Grace Poluch, study abroad student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is also aware of the different prices between Rome and her hometown.
“I find Italy to be cheaper relative to the United States,” Poluch said. “Initially, I didn’t hesitate to purchase a cappuccino in Rome, because I knew it was cheaper than the 5 dollars I pay at home, but now I’ve become accustomed to paying less than 3 euros.”
Trastevere has a large student population as it is home to John Cabot University, The American University of Rome, and the Pontifical Urban University, all of which offer study-abroad programs. This Fall, JCU enrolled 1,625 students, and 93 percent of the 763 visiting students come from the United States.
Zi Marietta 1956 Ristorante is located a one-minute walk from Guarini campus, and Mimo Abojose, who runs the bar, justifies setting the cost at €2.50 from providing table service. A cappuccino without table service is €1.50.
Table service is a fixed charge applied to the bill if the customer desires to sit within the restaurant. In the United States, table service is non-existent, but it’s implied that a coffee “to-go” can be consumed sitting in the cafe for the same price.
Gea Villa, a John Cabot degree-seeking student born and raised in Rome pays €1.10 for one of the 3 cups of espresso she drinks in a day. The other cups she avoids buying in “overpriced” Trastevere. Instead, Villa gets her cappuccinos from John Cabot, where vending machines make them for 65 cents.
At the Tiber Campus Cafe, a cappuccino that you can also drink at a table can be purchased for €1 or 100 dining points.
The extra 10 minutes spent driving in traffic when leaving the Trastevere area is worth it for Villa, as she estimates around €4 is saved on her coffee purchases weekly by seeking cafes closer to her home, outside the center of Rome.
Recently, the Euro has been depreciating in value, which can be largely attributed to the Russia and Ukraine war.
In reference to the dollar, the euro has gone down more than 10% this year despite the trade-weighted currency only dropping 3%. For Europe’s Central Bank, combatting this issue requires pushing inflation further.
“The euro is affected by the covid which is still spreading, and also by the fact that the Russian and Ukraine war is closer to us than to the United States,” said Doctor Marco Valerio Rossi, visiting Professor of Business at JCU. “The U.S. is helping us fight this war against Ukraine, but the U.S. is very physically distant respectively to Europe, so the wealth of the European Union is feeling the effects stronger.”
While impacted by the war, the United States is not as strongly affected when compared to Europe largely because of proximity. Russian crude oil and petroleum products make up 8% of all imported oil and less than 2% of U.S. supply. For Europe, however, about half of their oil is imported- 20% of which comes from Russia.
Villa said she has been “directly impacted” by the falling of the euro.
“When I started working, I began to really realize what it meant to manage my own money,” said Villa. “I started to pay more attention to prices and value for money and realized that compared to a few years ago, quality, unfortunately, has gone down while prices went up.”
To combat the effects of the euro depreciating, the European Union increased inflation and businesses are feeling it.
The Italian dairy companies, Granarolo and Lactalis Italia, issued a joint statement saying that there is “serious concern about the galloping inflation.”
Despite rising costs, Minimarket owner Shmon said his business is doing “very well.” Students come regularly for items and tourists are always in the area. Sales do see a decline during the times that school is out of session.
“Trastevere is slightly expensive compared to Roma’s average, especially regarding everything that concerns food,” said Claudio Buratti, a degree seeking student from Italy. “Prices are higher because of tourism and because of JCU students. For instance, you can barely find iced coffee around Rome, but you find it in Trastevere because of American students, so they can afford to slightly raise the price.”
MAMMÒ is a popular cafe among JCU students. Bar staff Michela Mancini, said that 99% of customers are students, and the majority of those students are American. The cafe specializes in American food, with signage that reads “American Skill” posted outside the restaurant.
MAMMÒ charges €1.50 for a cappuccino— a price that is consistent regardless of the nationality of the consumer.
“I charge the same amount to an Italian as I do an American,” said Mancini.
Trastevere cafe high prices are not designed to cheat customers. American students in the area just pay less than they do at home.
Gianna Giordano, study abroad student from California, pays around $6 for coffee, so even a €3 cappuccino is half the price of what she receives when in the United States.
Nino Malakmadze, JCU degree-seeking student from Georgia, studying at the university for three years, said she has experienced an increase in prices throughout the Trastevere area and also heard the same from classmates’ opinions on costs.
“Some think it is pretty cheap here, and I’ve heard them complain that it is expensive too,” Malakmadze said. “I guess it depends where people are coming from. My friend from L.A. thinks that it is super cheap here, but I also heard from my friend from Georgia that the prices are not reasonable.”
Not all Italian JCU students find cappuccino prices unreasonable.
“I think here in Trastevere, cappuccinos are a bit more expensive but not excessively,” said Marica Loffreda, JCU degree-seeking student from Italy.
Prices are continuing to increase, not in the terms of cafe owners. Mancini, like Shmon, said that the utilities are the costliest expense at this time, but are affecting the EU as a whole.