Italy boasts some of the most incredible coffee in the world, but trying to figure out what to order in an Italian cafe can be confusing. When the words “Italian” and “coffee” are together in a sentence, two main images always seem to come to mind; a teenie tiny doll-sized cup of the strongest fluid known as espresso, or the creamy, foamy, delight of a cappuccino. Both of these are incredible morning drink options, there is a whole other world of caffeine waiting just for you! The cafe culture in Italy is a long-held tradition of the people, and a typical Italian drinks three to four cups of coffee a day.
Many visitors are also unaware of the cafe culture, in terms of when it is acceptable to have certain coffee. For example, a cappuccino is normally for the morning hours, or until noon. This doesn’t mean that you can’t order a cappuccino at three pm, but you may get some funny looks from the locals. Usually, the locals will have their cappuccino or espresso in the morning, from seven to noon, and then they will get “pick me ups” as needed in the afternoon.
The Italians also only enjoy milk in their coffee in the morning, and never before bedtime. It is said that your stomach can digest milk more easily in the mornings, and drinking it later in the day will overwork your stomach muscles. It’s also important to remember that each of Italy’s regions has unique drinks, and I highly encourage you to try one you’ve never tasted before. There are ample of things to do in Italy but when you’re in Italy, you have to try some Italian style coffee.
If you see a sign that says “Bar” that usually means it’s a cafe. Many times, a cafe will be open early in the morning, and serve coffee, cookies, and small paninis for most of the day, and in the evening, they will serve alcohol. To enjoy your coffee like a local, you should drink your coffee at the bar standing, or outside.
1. What to order in an Italian cafe when you want something cold: Caffe Freddo (Iced Coffee)
The Italians believe that ice is bad for digestion, so instead, they serve extremely cold drinks as an alternative. Caffe Freddo is perfect for iced coffee lovers, although it might not be as sweet as you would expect. It is in a tall glass, with lots of milk and a little foam on top. Be careful not to drink it too fast, they’re dangerously delicious…
2. What to order in an Italian cafe when you miss your Chai tea Latte: Caffe al’ Ginseng
Caffe al’ ginseng is a fantastic secret gem of the coffee world. If you like chai lattes, then you should give this drink a go. It has all the wonderful bitterness of coffee mixed with the subtle, sweet, warm and spicy flavors of ginseng. It’s also important to note that caffe al’ginseng is as black as espresso, although you can certainly add a cube of sugar or two!
3. What to order in an Italian cafe when you’re feeling adventurous: Caffe D’Orzo
If you’re feeling a little adventurous, then you should try Caffe D’Orzo. They grind up some barley, and this unique beverage is espresso style, It also has zero caffeine, so it’s perfect if you’re sensitive to caffeine.
4. What to order in an Italian cafe when you want something smooth: Macchiato
Hold it right there! I know what you’re thinking, “I drink that at Starbucks, I don’t need to have it in Italy.” Yes, you may have had it somewhere else before, but trust me when I say the similarity stops at the name. This rich, smooth coffee adds a punch of caffeine to perk up any day. This is the type of drink to enjoy in the afternoon.
5. What to order in an Italian cafe when you want something mild: Caffe Latte
Caffe latte is one of the more mild versions of Italian coffee. Latte in Italian means “milk” and therefore the drink is simply coffee with milk. It’s a basic but delightful way to wake up in the morning. As mentioned before, many Italians believe that ice is bad for the digestion, however, the Italian summers can be brutally hot, and you will want something cold to drink. Because of all the milk in caffe latte, the end result is a chilly coffee, with a little caffeine.
6. What to order in an Italian cafe when you want a little kick: Caffe Corretto (Literally translates to “Corrected Coffee”)
This is a fun twist on traditional coffee. The coffee is an espresso, however, they serve with a dash of alcohol, like sambuca. This style of drink is really good in the late afternoon, and you can find it at most cafes.
What NOT to order in an Italian cafe
1. What to order in an Italian cafe instead of Caffe Americano
This is for the American tourists, it’s a drip-style coffee, but please, it really doesn’t do the Italian coffee any justice. It is simply just espresso that is watered down with some hot water. What you should try instead is a Caffe Lungo- it’s a bit stronger than Caffe Americano, but has more espresso and an authentic “Italian” taste.
2. What to order in an Italian cafe Caffe Doppio
This is a double shot of espresso. Many tourists want this, but the cafe culture is a relaxed way a life, and many Italians choose to go to the cafe more than once a day. If one shot of espresso isn’t enough, then by all means, go back again!
If you are in the North, I highly recommend having some sort of dessert to compliment your coffee of choices, such as Panna Cotta or Torte di Nocciole. Panna Cotta is a creamy, silky, light dessert, and Torte di Nocciole is a cake with lots of hazelnuts. In Piedmont, these are everywhere and are fantastic with a coffee base. In Rome, have some Tiramisu, as it’s a local treat. If you’re in the South, like Palermo, pick up a cannoli- or two- with your coffee, it’s simply decadent.
Well, there you have it.
There is a delicious coffee for every single type or weather and mood that is sure to capture your heart.
Be sure to order some of these on your next trip to Italy
Still, need help?