After a long flight (mine lasted over 15 hours), you may find yourself jet lagged whenever you arrive in Italy and what better a place to set forth and grab a coffee. Italian coffee is a fundamental part of the culture sought out by many because of it’s uniqueness.
CAFFÉ IN ITALY
Coffee was welcomed to Europe through the city of Venice, Italy with the first coffeehouse being made there in the late 1600s following Pope Clement VIII’s consent for Christians to consume the beverage that was thought to be sinful. This made the beverage’s popularity spread worldwide overtime resulting in the creation of the modern coffeehouse and coffee culture in general.
For more about the history of Italian caffé click here.
Style, Fashion & Tradition
Italians are known for their style and fashion and tradition and, yes, that includes coffee. Italians were among the first to discover coffee and naturally developed a fashion for making it and drinking it. That fashion has become a tradition that may be quite different from those of other countries. Where your regular Starbucks venti is concerned Italy is not. There are a few things you need to know before you decide to pursue your caffeinated drink of choice.
Stopping by the Bar
When you’re in Italy, the bar is the place you go to get your coffee. When you walk into a bar in any Italian city you want to greet the barista by simply saying “Buongiorno” (Bwon-jor-no) or you may say “Ciao” (Chow). This is just a simple way to let the person working know that you are here and you would like for them to serve you. If you don’t they will still serve you, but it’s impolite to not follow this simple protocol.
Sitting or Standing
If you would like to sit you shouldn’t order from the bar. If you take a seat the barista will take your order from there. Or if you would like to embrace the Italian culture to it’s fullest you should drink standing at the bar. Most bars in Italy have you pay before you order, so simply tell the cashier your beverage of choice, pay, and they will give you a receipt. Take the receipt and hand that to the barista for your drink to be made. Don’t linger very long though, in this instance it is appropriate to chug your drink at the bar. Drinking coffee fast in Italy is almost a sport. Go for gold.
KNOWING WHAT TO ORDER
Of course it’s not just important how to order, but what to order. My first experience ordering un caffé in Italy I quickly realized when I received an espresso that caffé Americano is completely different beverage.
Speak a Little of the Language
For the best experience it is a good idea to remember some key words and their meanings:
- Vorrei (vor-ray): I would like
- Latte(la-te): Milk
- Doppio (do-pyo): Double
- Freddo (fre-do): Cold
- Lungo (loon-go): Long… A bit stronger than a caffé americano.
And lastly, but most importantly Per Favore (per-fa-vo-re): Please!
You can find info on other drinks and how to order them here.
Also, going to a more modern, Americanized bar like Coffee O’ Clock makes ordering a drink a little easier with a menu that is a little bit different (an espresso is actually called an espresso) and it’s broader range of choices including some smoothies and other juice drinks.
You Should Keep in Mind
- Always have euro with you. Coins preferably! People don’t pay for a coffee with a credit card and making change from 50€ for a 1€ caffé isn’t fun for Italians.
- There is a charge for sitting down, but if you’re going to sip slowly grab a seat. Italians don’t hang out at the bar for too long.
- To-go cups may exist, but they are not used in Italy.
- Ordering any beverage that has milk in the evening is typically uncommon in Italy, so they might look at you strange if you do so.
- There are quite a few disputes between myth and fact concerning Italian coffee you can find a few answers here.
- Remember trial and error. No new experience goes without a little mistake.
With all that said you should feel as confident as ever getting your caffeine fix in Italy! Ciao!