The revelation came from ex-footballer and Antonio Percassi, who is working with Starbucks bosses to bring the love-it-or-hate-it brand to Italy.
“We are aiming to open 200 to 300 sales points across Italy, we think that there's a place for it in the market,” Percassi said at a Milan press conference, finance daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported. The Bergamo entrepreneur has previously brought global giants including Zara, the Lego Store and Victoria's Secret to Italy, so he would appear to be the right man for the job.
The first stores will be opened in Milan and Rome, though the opening date of the Italian flagship store has been pushed back. Initially scheduled to launch in Milan this year, Percassi said the country's first Starbucks would come “in 2018 after June, because we are doing a big thing here.”
After that though, they'll be going at full throttle, with a further four shops expected to open that same week, spread between Rome and Milan.
And by 2023, Percassi says he hopes that there will be hundreds of Starbucks shops across the entire peninsula, “if the market responds well”.
The venture was first announced in July last year, with Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz paying homage to Italy's cafe culture, which first inspired him to build his coffee empire.
During his trip to Milan and Verona in the early 1980s, Shultz said he was “inspired by the craftsmanship of the Milanese barista, the spirit of the Italian people, their passion for community, their friendliness and taste for quality”.
He acknowledged the “unique challenge” of bringing the chain to Italy, and promised that the first branch would be designed “with painstaking detail and great respect for the Italian people and coffee culture”.
But when the rumours of Starbucks in Italy first began in 2015, local coffee experts and cafe-owners were aghast at the prospect.
One restaurant-owner told Italian the idea of a Starbucks in Italy was “disgusting”, but said he was confident the chain wouldn't succeed here because Italians are “too protective” of their coffee.
Indeed, the country's rich café culture and love of coffee is well known – and usually at a fraction of the cost than the flavoured lattes and Frappuccinos served up at Starbucks, thanks to regulations which mean you'll rarely be charged over €1 for an espresso or €1.40 for a cappuccino.
Luigi Ordello, the president of the Italy-based Institute of International Coffee Tasters, which works to promote the appreciation of Italian coffee around the world, was pragmatic about the prospect.
“It wouldn't threaten Italian coffee if it does arrive, as Starbucks today represents an international standard of coffee and not an Italian one,” he told The Local at the time.
And one student and coffee-lover, Alice, said she didn't care if the coffee tasted good or not, “I will never choose an American coffee over an Italian one.”
Photo: Red Flake/Flickr