Think of coffee and you may well think first of countries where it is produced such as Colombia or Guatemala. Think again and Italy and its long tradition of roasting and serving coffee will come to mind. And like all time-honoured traditions, coffee drinking in Italy has some codes. We will decipher them for you!

Do

Do

Sit or stand at the bar (a café is actually called a “bar” in Italy) if you want a quick fix and don’t want to be charged for service and seating (sitting at some open-air terraces can result in eye-watering bills).

Don’t

Don’t

Order a cappuccino after lunch or dinner. In Italy it is strictly a morning drink (milk is thought to be difficult to digest later in the day). And don’t expect a cup of cappuccino as large as you would get in the US.

Do

Do

Order a “caffè” if you would like a tiny cup of the dark sticky brew that most people are having in the afternoon and that we call “espresso”.

Don’t

Don’t

Expect any kind of filter coffee. If you would like the nearest approximation, ask for a “caffè americano” and you’ll get an espresso with added hot water in a larger cup.

Do

Do

Understand that in some bars, you need to pay for your coffee at the cash register (“cassa” - sometimes near the door of the establishment) and present the receipt (“scontrino” or “ticket”) to the server at the counter who will make a tear in it and make you your coffee. If in doubt ask “Si paga alla cassa prima?” (“Do you pay at the cash register first?”)

Don’t

Don’t

Be surprised that in Italian homes, when the host or hostess serves the coffee, he or she will ask each guest for their sugar preferences and will sweeten each person’s cup of coffee before passing it to them.

Do

Do

Be adventurous when you choose a pastry in a bar to go with your morning coffee. Our favourite is the delicious “budino di riso”, a tartlet filled with rice pudding. Much better than a boring croissant (“cornetto”).

Don’t

Don’t

Expect to get soy milk and syrups in your drink. It’s the pure stuff here!

Do

Do

Try iced coffee (caffè freddo) and the half-frozen coffee ice (granita di caffè). If you visit Sicily in the summer, make sure to try granita (of all types - our favourite is almond) served with a sweet bun (brioche) at breakfast. Divine.

Don’t

Don’t

Order a “latte” thinking that you are going to get coffee with milk. You’ll just get… a glass of milk! And while “caffelatte” exists, it’s generally a large glass of warm milk with a dash of coffee in it.

But at the end of the day, have your coffee any way that makes you happy and just ignore the frowns of the coffee police!

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