How To Drink Coffee Like An Italian

How to Drink Coffee Like an Italian


If you’re like me, half the reason you booked your flight to Italy was for the coffee. I drink coffee like water, so I feel right at home in the birthplace of coffee culture. Like any American on her first Italian adventure, I had to learn the ropes before I could stride into a coffee bar and confidently order my coffee alongside the Florentines. Follow these 5 rules to learn how to drink coffee like an Italian, and you’ll blend in like a local when ordering your caffè:


1. No Cappuccino After 12pm

This is number one for a reason. It is the cardinal rule of drinking coffee in Italy. For Italians, milk is strictly consumed at breakfast time. Therefore, if you order a cappuccino, caffè latte, or other milk-based beverage after about 10:30am, be prepared for disapproving looks. If you’re serious about learning how to drink coffee like an Italian, never ever order a cappuccino after breakfast.


2. Don’t Order an Espresso

Ordering an espresso in Italy is redundant. “Caffè,” the Italian word for coffee, means espresso by default.


3. Don’t Sit Down

If you take a seat at a table and wait for someone to come take your order, be prepared to pay three times more for your coffee. For Italians coffee is a quick dose of caffeine, and is ceremoneously consumed standing at the bar.


4. Pay Before (or After)

The traditional way to order a coffee is to pay the cashier, and then tell the barista your order and hand over the receipt. Of course, like everything in Italy there are exceptions. Not all bars strictly enforce or even follow this rule. At some bars you pay after, and at some it depends on the time, situation and alignment of the stars. In the end no one really knows, but it’s essential that you pretend to know. When in doubt watch the other customers and follow suit. In the case that you mess it up, get all huffy and act totally scandalized and put-out. You’ll fit right in.


5. Know Your Coffee (It’s not a latte)

Your daily starbucks lingo won’t translate in Italy. If you order a “lattè,” you’ll get a nice refreshing glass of milk, because lattè means “milk” in Italian. Just go for a cappuccino, which is nicer and foamier anyway.

Some useful terms to know:

  • Caffè doppio: double espresso
  • Caffè Lungo: “long coffee,” espresso with more water
  • Caffè ristretto: “short coffee,” espresso with less water
  • Caffè macchiato: “stained coffee,” espresso with a bit of milk
  • Caffè latte: mils wpth a shot of espresso
  • Caffè shakerato: coffee shaken with ice – the closest thing to iced coffee
  • Caffè corretto: espresso with a shot of liquor, usually grappa, sambuca or brandy


how to drink coffee like an italian


This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Tawni

    Ah! Thank you! Americans can be guilty of this on a lot of things but I totally forget what I think is an espresso is not what others think is an espresso. We’ve all just been brainwashed by Starbucks! :)

    I’m excited to employ my new found knowledge next summer in Italy!

    1. Krista

      Glad you liked it! You’re going to love Italy – especially the coffee ;)

  2. leela

    this is the guide i needed last month! love it.

  3. taylor

    oh what a glorious post! i miss the cappuccinos in italy so very much. your rules are all SO true, and the one thing that always confused me was the paying part. i remember going to chiaroscuro right on via cavour and getting the waitress in a huff because i was confused about when to pay.
    lovely, lovely post. i’ll be meeting you for a caffè in italy one day soon krista!

    1. Krista

      Thanks Taylor! I know, paying can be so confusing! It’s supposed to be before, but its different in every place. Come back soon and we’ll chat over coffee – or aperitivo ;)

  4. georgette

    great informative post Krista! I love me a caffe macchiato anytime during the day :)

    1. Krista

      Thanks Georgette! Caffè macchiato is my absolute favorite – a mini cappuccino that’s legit at any hour!

  5. Sam

    And there’s more: the fundamental difference between “Caffè macchiato freddo” and “Caffè macchiato caldo”, where the first is an espresso with a little cold milk and the second – as said – is a sort of mini cappuccino ;)

  6. Melinda

    You forgot to mention that coffee is consumed standing at the bar while YELLING or “spiritedly discussing” things very loudly. :) This would have been nice to know prior to my visiting Italy lol.

    1. Krista

      ah yes! This seems to be a rule for lots of activities in Italy…

  7. Julianne McGrath

    This made me chuckle. I am sooooo guilty of #1!! I am embarrassed everytime i do it, but i figure better a cap than a big piece of cake! ;-)

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  10. Jann Elaine

    Wonderful stuff on coffee that has been so helpf for this dumb expat American. Thank you much! Can’t wait to use my new moka pot to make a cappuccino!

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