High above the city of Florence sits the Accademia del Caffe Espresso, a coffee experience unique in the world presented by our partners at La Marzocco.
Now in its fourth year of operation, the Accademia has truly come into its own, firing on all cylinders and occupying multiple distinct identities: a global visitor’s center, a marvel of reclaimed architecture inside the original La Marzocco factory, a historical museum, a multimedia sensory experience, a scientific research hub, a coffee roasting, and quality control laboratory, a living garden, a very good restaurant, a rooftop wonderland with enviable views across the Tuscan hills, and perhaps most intriguing of all, a traditional working production facility—Officine Fratelli Bambi—where truly handmade espresso machines are crafted from raw steel on traditional equipment by true artisans.
It was our pleasure to visit Academia del Caffe Espresso for a second time, and the project has grown and changed considerably since 2019, with a focus on research and sustainability, dedicated laboratories, and educational courses (including courses certified by the SCA and CQI). The growth of this project is nowhere more evident than in the main room of Accademia, which is framed by a heaving library collecting titles on coffee and coffee culture (and much more) going back decades.
A tasteful open kitchen is now fully operational, offering an outstanding curated lunch experience of traditional-yet-updated Tuscan cuisine for global visitors, alongside local wines. At the core of the Accademia great hall, you’ll find a one-of-a-kind espresso machine known as Vespucci, which features every operational espresso machine group currently produced by La Marzocco, from the Strada to the Leva to the Linea PB. Do not ask for your own Vespucci—this is strictly a one-of-one and viewable exclusively at La Marzocco Accademia—but do expect to drink outstanding espresso on your visit.
Beyond the cafe area is a small gallery dedicated to La Marzocco’s historic espresso machines, as well as brand-new models from the La Marzocco Home line. This is framed by tasteful Italian mid-century modern furniture, with clean lines and evocative angles evoking the espresso machines themselves.
Significantly expanded since our last visit is the remarkable Accademia tour experience, which fuses La Marzocco’s history with the development of coffee culture and historical events across the 20th century. Guests will experience everything from a state-of-the-art ASMR video from the La Marzocco factory to a historic Italian midcentury cafe reproduced onsite for traditional espresso service. The tour invites guests to consider not just coffee’s journey from the espresso machine but from the plant’s agricultural roots, a notion anchored by Accademia’s impressive living greenhouse full of flowering plants (including, yes, coffee—they’ve even harvested and roasted cherries).
A significant educational component of Accademia has blossomed over the last four years, and available experiences include introductions to sensory, cupping, processing, plant design, latte art, coffee roasting, and hand brewing. More rigorous courses include the History of Coffee, the Art and Science of Espresso, and multiple levels of accredited SCA courses from introductory to professional, plus courses from the CQI, including Q Arabica Calibration. This all takes place across multiple classroom spaces at Accademia, some boasting enviable views across the rolling Tuscan hills. (Not bad for a campus.)
At the top of our list to explore on this visit was the Officine Fratelli Bambi, announced in the summer of 2021 and is now fully operational in 2023, under the direction of La Marzocco lead designer Stefano Della Pietra. This space is like a time machine, utterly transportive to an earlier era of espresso machine design and manufacture, and yet only possible in the here in now, subtly fusing modern tools with traditional craftsmanship and nary a computer in sight. It’s an extraordinary place to visit, and if you love espresso machines coming here belongs squarely on your bucket list. We’ll be taking a closer look at OFB (as it’s known around the shop) in the coming days on Sprudge, so stay tuned.
Visiting this place, this Accademia is a unique experience in coffee, and it’s no wonder we find ourselves asked about it often by friends and colleagues in the industry. Accademia inhabits multiple identities, and there is an air of whimsy to the space, a sort of Disney World for coffee lovers but also very much a working educational and research hub and a positively stunning office setting for La Marzocco’s team, both local and global. Coming here, in this stunningly restored traditional factory, you cannot help but feel connected to something bigger, to the tradition and history of coffee culture as it has extended around the world over the last 100 years. It’s bigger than any one brand or place, and this feeling is captured by the experience of visiting Accademia del Caffe Espresso. It could only be here, in Tuscany, high above Florence, where the air is heavy with tradition, but the breeze blows sweetly with innovation and possibility. Where else?
Jordan Michelman (@suitcasewine) is a co-founder at Sprudge Media Network.
Photos by Sprudge co-founder Zachary Carlsen for Sprudge Media Network.
Dislcosure: Sprudge is proudly partnered with La Marzocco.