A trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of their famous coffees. Italian coffee differs from what you expect to order in your local high street coffee shop. During many holidays to Italy, I’ve made several mistakes when ordering and enjoying my favourite beverage– I’ve been served hot milk, charged double the price I thought I would be, and have been frowned upon for ordering a cappuccino at dinner. Learn to drink coffee like Italy’s locals do with our how-to guide.
When looking for somewhere to grab a coffee in Italy, be aware that what we know as a cafe in the UK is called a bar in Italy. In most bars, you’ll find an actual bar, with no stools or seating available nearby. This is because Italians typically drink their coffee quickly– they’ll order a shot of espresso, drink it while standing at the bar, and be on their way. This may not be the most favourable way for you to enjoy your drink if you feel like your feet need a rest, so at some bars you’ll be able to sit with your drink, but keep in mind that your drink will cost more if you decide to sit– look for a list of prices under the heading “al tavolo” to see how much more.
No cappuccinos after midday
Locals don’t tend to order cappuccinos much longer after breakfast, as they think that the milk in it can upset digestion if ordered later in the day. As a rule of thumb, don’t order a cappuccino after 12pm, or you’ll get a confused look from the barista. And while we love a good coffee after our meal, the Italians will only go for espresso, and only after dessert has been consumed.
A latte isn’t what you think it is
Ordering a latte in Italy is not the same as ordering a latte back at home. If you ask for a latte at an Italian bar, you’ll be served a glass of hot milk– latte translates to milk in Italian. If you’re hoping to get a latte like you’re used to back in the UK, order a latte macchiato.
Know your coffee
The Italians serve up many variations of coffee. Some of the most popular (and the ones you should try) include:
Caffè– espresso, which is quite strong and is served in a tiny cup
Caffè doppio – double espresso
Caffè lungo – espresso diluted in hot water, making it weaker than a normal espresso. The name translates to “long coffee”.
Cappuccino – espresso with hot, foamed milk.
Caffè macchiato – the equivalent of a latte in the UK, and translates to “stained coffee”
Caffè shakerato – coffee blended with ice, similar to an iced coffee and perfect in the hot weather
Corretto – espresso with a shot of spirit
Caffè con panna – espresso topped with whipped cream. This is the Italian version of our cappuccino.
Coffee and socializing
Getting a coffee is more of an act of getting an essential, quick dose of caffeine than it is a social thing. While grabbing a coffee can mean you meeting friends for a lengthy catch up, coffee breaks in Italy are short. The social scene in Italy is based more around food and alcohol, during which Italians tend to chat for hours.