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