The Italian way to enjoy coffee is a pleasure not many countries can offer. Our days are defined by coffee rituals. A cappuccino at breakfast to kickstart our morning, a macchiato in the afternoon as a comforting pick-me-up, and an espresso to finish off a wonderful evening dinner with friends. If you're lucky enough to spend time in Italy and want an authentic experience of drinking this centuries-old beverage then here’s what I recommend… These 3 tips will be your bible to embedding yourself into the very fabric of Italian culture, one Caffè at a time:
1. Time is of the Essence
As a proud Italian myself, I’ll let you into a little secret…
Us Italians like it hot and quick.
Cafe culture in Italy is not about spending hours in cafes, watching the world go by, despite what Hollywood movies portray. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t savor and appreciate a wonderfully made coffee, on the contrary we adore these moments. We are the masters of “Ci prendiamo un caffè?” meaning to “take a break”. Punctuating our day with coffee is honestly something we relish in, it’s just a case of efficiency, and this is why…
It may surprise you that coffee should NOT be served piping hot. Such a high temperature gives a burnt taste to the coffee, that no barista wants to serve. True Italian coffee is served warm, but not hot – meaning your best option is to drink up fast before the cold sets in. It isn’t unusual for baristas to stop a couples conversation to remind them their coffee is almost beyond the point of no return. Coffee should be warming to the soul, and core to la dolce vita experience!
2. Be Specific About What You Want
In Italy, there are many different types of coffee available and it can be confusing trying to figure out what you want. So when you go to order, be specific about what you want. Do you want a cappuccino? A latte? An espresso? It's important to know exactly what you want before you order, otherwise you might end up with something you're not happy with.
Here are some helpful phrases to help you settle in fast when your barista says “Prego, desidera?”:
● “Un cappuccino, per favore” (Cappuccino: a coffee with warm milk and foam on top) ● “Un caffè, per favore” (Caffè: a shot of espresso) ● “Un caffè americano, per favore” (Caffè americano: a cup of coffee) ● “Un latte macchiato, per favore” (Latte macchiato: warm milk with a shot of coffee) ● “Un caffè shakerato, per favore” (Caffè shakerato: an iced coffee) Don’t forget to finish your sentence with “per favore”. Our coffees are pretty cheap already, but politeness costs nothing!
When it comes to coffee, there are a lot of terms that can be overwhelming for people who aren't familiar with them. So it's important to know what they mean before you order. A cappuccino is a coffee made with espresso and steamed milk, while a latte is a coffee made with espresso and milk. An espresso is a strong coffee made without milk. In this blog post, we'll break down these terms so you can order with confidence the next time you're in Italy.
Macchiato In Italy it’s a little different to your average Starbucks creation. A traditional Macchato doesn’t include the (overly sugared in my opinion) syrups, and artificial whipped cream. A true Italian macchiato consists of an espresso with a small amount of steamed milk. The word "macchiato" means "stained" in Italian, referring to the way the milk stains the surface of the espresso. The result is bold and strong, retaining a creamy texture. If you want a stronger coffee with less milk, a macchiato is a good choice. You can also order a cold Macchiato made with cold milk, instead of steamed milk.
Doppio A doppio is simply a double shot of espresso. If you find yourself needing an extra boost of caffeine, this is the drink for you. Just be warned that a doppio can be quite strong, so it's not recommended for those who are sensitive to caffeine. Some people like to doctor up their doppios with a splash of milk or some sugar. But I think that defeats the purpose of a pure, unadulterated Italian double shot of espresso (and your barista will agree). If you want something sweet, we recommend trying an affogato instead (espresso + gelato = heaven). Did you know the doppio was first created in Italy in the early 1900s as a way to make espresso more affordable? In those days, almost everyone drank their espresso straight up, no matter how strong it was. But when World War I hit and coffee became scarce, people started cutting their espressos with water to make them last longer. The doppio was born out of this need for economy and has been a staple of Italian coffee culture ever since. At this point you may be wondering…Cappuccino vs. Latte vs. Doppio: what's the difference? As any coffee lover knows, there are endless variations on the simple espresso drink. But here's a quick rundown of the differences to know:
Cappuccino: One part espresso, one part steamed milk, one part foam (usually made from milk)
Latte: One part espresso, two parts steamed milk
Doppio: Two parts espresso
As you can see, the main difference between a cappuccino and a latte is the addition of foam in the former. And the main difference between a latte and a doppio is simply that a latte has twice as much milk as a doppio. So if you're looking for something light and refreshing, go for a doppio. If you're looking for something rich and creamy, go for a latte. And if you're looking for something with a little bit of everything, go for a cappuccino.
Espresso An espresso is all about quality over quantity. The classic espresso is an integral part of Italian culture, and it’s not uncommon to see people sipping espressos at all hours of the day and night. It’s a small but strong coffee made without milk. It's made by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans at high pressure. An espresso has more caffeine than other types of coffee, so it's perfect if you need an energy boost. However, because it doesn't have any milk, it can also be quite bitter. But, don’t add milk…this is the true way to experience an Italian espresso. Finally sip slowly. Yes we drink fast, but as I said earlier we savor even the briefest moments. Take sips to enjoy the rich flavor you encounter. If you’re slightly intimidated by the strong essence the espresso offers, break up the bitterness with a buttery biscotti or another type of Italian pastry. This way you can enjoy the charms of two Italian delicacies at the same time.
Espresso con Panna Espresso con panna means "espresso with cream." This is a type of espresso that has whipped cream added to it. It's also sometimes called an "espresso machiatto." The added cream makes this already rich beverage even richer, and it's the perfect choice if you're looking for something indulgent.
How do you order espresso con panna in Italy? In Italy, there are a few different ways to order your espresso con panna. The most common way is simply to ask for an "espresso con panna," but you can also ask for an "espresso machiatto" or a "caffè Americano." No matter how you order it, you're sure to get a delicious cup of coffee with a scoop of whipped cream on top. Whether you call it an espresso con panna or an espresso machiatto, this delicious drink is sure to give you the energy boost you need when exploring Italy’s incredible regions. Now that you know your coffee terms, you're ready to order like a pro the next time you find yourself in Italy. Buon viaggio! Last but not least; In Italy, it's perfectly acceptable to ask for exactly what you want in your coffee. If you want it to be extra hot, or if you want it to be made with a certain type of milk, just ask. The barista will be more than happy to accommodate your request. Here are some more useful words to know if you want to give Italian a try:
If you want to blend into Italian cafe culture seamlessly, then sip your Doppio standing at the bar, or ‘al banco’ as we would say. However, if you’ve been exploring the wonders of Romes mosaic streets, or succumbing to ‘Florence Syndrom’ in Tuscany, then you may want to put your feet up. In which case, enjoy your coffee al fresco (meaning outside) at one of the cafe’s tables. Even in winter this is a blissful experience.
Savor the moment with every sip, and appreciate the here and now in Italy wherever you are. Life is often too busy, too fast and it’s easy to let the small moments that make a difference slip away.
Of course, the best cultural insurance is to travel with Avventure Bellissime. We make sure every one of our clients has all the insider info and advice they need to look like a seasoned visitor to that country, even if they aren’t – Get in touch here to discover the best of Italy.