Coffee in Italy

By Sarah Titus —

Guest Writer

With your travel guide book in hand and shoes on your feet, you’re ready to take on the day exploring the ancient city of Urbino in beautiful Italia… but wait! You haven’t had your coffee yet. Consider these five tips when searching for that perfect coffee while traveling Italy.

A cappachino served at the University of Urbino in Italy. Photo by Sarah Titus.

A cappuccino served at the University of Urbino in Italy.
Photo by Sarah Titus.

  1. What others call a “café,” Italians call a “bar.”

For those traveling, you will often see signs reading “bar.” Rather than an establishment serving alcoholic beverages and light snacks, bars in Italy are where coffee and pastries are served throughout the day. Some coffees can be ordered with alcohol in them, but bars are where Italians go to get their espresso fix no matter it be early in the morning before work or during their lunch time for a quick espresso shot.

 

  1. There is no such thing as a latte.

In opposition to the Starbucks’ menu and their lattes that are ordered by caffeine addicts on a daily basis, ordering one of these in Italy will result in the barista handing you a nice tall glass of milk. A caffe latte, on the other hand, is a coffee served with the addition of steamed milk.

 

  1. Only order milky drinks in the morning.

Italians are typically quite concerned about their digestione, or digestion. If you order a more milky coffee such as a macchiato or a cappuccino after 11 a.m., don’t be surprised if the barista gives you a funny look. They will still make it for you, but it is not typical for Italians to drink such a rich drink in the middle of the day or in the afternoon or late evening. Coffee with milk is reserved for breakfast only.

 

  1. Drink your coffee standing at the bar.

As an American, it is normal to think that you would sit down at a table or booth to enjoy your coffee in a café with friends. In Italy, Italians stand at the bar as they drink their coffee. The casual friendly banter between friends and baristas is still evident, but all of the patrons are standing up. Observing a bar in Italy for just five minutes in the morning, you will see at least a dozen people come in, order and quickly down their coffee, and leave. Many customers will stand at the bar, chatting with the barista as they drink their coffee as well. This is a cultural norm throughout Italy, so plan to pay more if you sit down at a table in the bar for table service. It is recommended to stand alongside the Italian customers at the bar as you order, pay for, and drink your coffee as you will have some unforgettable exchanges of conversation with the locals, who just might recommend your new favorite drink!

 

  1. Coffees come in many varieties!

Along with this new culture of coffee that includes bars, standing alongside other coffee-lovers at the counter as you enjoy your morning beverage, and avoiding cappuccinos after breakfast comes a slew of Italian names for different delizioso drinks.

Un caffé: Italians do not order an espresso, but rather un caf. This is a single shot of espresso. Standing at the bar, you will see the barista pull the shot from the espresso machine, which will be promptly served to you while still hot. Don’t wait to drink it, though, as espresso shots taste extremely bitter after sitting for longer than about 10 seconds.

Caffé Americano: This is espresso with added hot water. Compared to caffé americanos in the United States, is a slightly stronger beverage that is comparable to regular home brewed coffee.

Caffé doppio: A caffé doppio is two shots of espresso served in the same small cup. This is for those who need that extra kick in the morning.

Macchiato: A macchiato is a single shot of espresso served with a very light amount of milk on top. You can order a macchiato fredo, which means the milk will be cold, or a macchiato caldo where the milk will be steamed.

Caffé corretto: A caffé corretto is coffee served with alcohol. This drink is served in a small cup with a shot of espresso with your alcohol of choice added in.

Caffé shakerato: If you’re looking for the perfect Italian iced coffee, look no further, the caffé shakerato is made with espresso, sugar, and ice, all shaken to create a cool, frothy drink sure to help beat the summer heat. Many people also order this con Bailey’s, which means with Bailey’s Irish Cream, to add an extra kick.

Cappuccino: A cappuccino contains a shot of espresso with steamed milk and added foam for a nice frothy taste. This comes in a larger cup than espresso, and is only ordered in the mornings by Italians.

 

You need an ending here, maybe just one sentence that ties this up.

Whether it be early in the morning before you start your day, or in the evening as you watch the sun set over the vast Italian countryside, having a coffee with friends is an integral part of the Italian culture. As you travel Italy, taking the time to stop and try different coffees will definitely give you a glimpse into the life of an Italian, and you may just make some of your own local friends along the way.


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