In Italy, the bar is the center of social life, not a place to consume large amounts of alcohol. Italians may visit their local bar several times in the morning for coffee, and again in the early evening for an aperitivo or cocktail before dinner.
In bars in larger cities, and especially ones near tourist centers, it will cost more to sit at a table (sometimes even more if the table is outside) than it will to stand at the bar. Prices are posted--al banco meaning the price for consuming a beverage at the bar, or al tavolo, meaning the price at the table. Smaller town bars may not levy table charges.
Some bars or caffes in Italy are beautifully decorated and going inside is a pleasure. Take a look at the carved marble bar in Caffe delle Carrozze in Chiavari. By the way, they have a fantastic house coffee, too.
Need help with ordering coffee at a bar in Italy? See Italian Coffee Drinks - How to Order Coffee in an Italian Bar.
Read more about Bar and Cafe Life in Europe.