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swirl & savor

Un Caffè Per Favore!

Beth Ribblett

Coffee in Italy is an art and its ritual a necessity of life.  You won't find expensive fancy sweet coffee drinks served in giant go cups or milks from every source imaginable and more types of sweeteners than you can count.  Coffee in Italy is simple - it is your fuel in the morning and your digestivo after meals.  Because while the Italians aren't big on laws in general, food and drink are the exception and a little education on how it is done will go a long way on your next trip.  So here are some steadfast rules and observations from one who honors the long standing tradition of true Italian coffee.

Pasticceria Vannelli, our favorite in Toscana
  •  "Bars" in Italy are cafes and they are everywhere!  The are usually quite small and have only a handful of tables.  A pasticceria is a pastry shop that also serves coffee.
  • Usually you go to the register and pay first then take your receipt to the barista who will make your drink.  If you want a brioche (pastry), a typical Italian breakfast, order that while at the register as well.

Un caffè at Bar Mulino in Positano
  • Your morning coffee is usually "taken" standing up at a bar and often accompanied by a delicious brioche.  If you want table service there is a cover charge for doing so.
  • Cappuccino and milk based drinks are for the morning, espresso in the afternoon and after meals.  If you want to be sure to labeled as a tourist, order a cappuccino in the middle of the afternoon!

    Tre cappuccini at a "bar" in Milano
  • If you order a lattè you will get a cup of milk, if you want coffee order a lattè macchiato or milk with espresso.
  • If you order "un caffè" you will be served an espresso - unless you look like a befuddled tourist then your order will be confirmed,  "Espresso?"

  • A simple macchiato is espresso with a dollop of steamed milk
  • An "Americano" is not American drip coffee but the Italian way to satisfy the needs of Americans who think bigger is better by adding water to shots of espresso and serving it in a large cup.

Un cappuccino e brioche, a typical Italian breakfast!
  • Coffee is not taken to go, and it is always served in the proper china on a saucer accompanied by a small spoon.  Sugar, and the dreaded artificial sweeteners for the tourists, are on the bar.
  • Whole milk is the norm. Touristy bars in big cities that are catering to Americans may offer something else but it is rare.

    Un cappuccino alla mia cucina!
    And the best part?  This delicious cup of heaven costs no more than $1.25 even in a touristy area! I hope this helps makes your next cup of coffee in Italy the wonderful experience it should be!