Everything You Need to Know About Taking a Coffee Break in Italy
Taking in new places, establishing rituals, and discovering your adventurous side are just a few reasons why we travel. The coffee in Italy is celebrated as some of the best in the world. From the craftsmanship put into each cup of espresso to the interpersonal connections you’ll form at the cafe, you’ll see why as you’re enjoying an Italian classic like the famous cappuccino.
Whether you’re researching travel inspiration for your Mediterranean cruise to Italy or brushing up on your Italian, you have probably come to realize that embracing coffee is a quintessential part of the Italy experience. Italians take their coffee very seriously and you won’t necessarily find your go-to cup of coffee at the average “cafe bar” in Rome or Florence.
There are rituals, ideal times to sip, and customs that differ from other countries. To make the experience of ordering coffee in Italy as easy as possible, we’ve created this handy “how to order coffee in Italy” guide to help you become a pro in the Italian way of enjoying coffee.
How do I find a cafe?
In Italy, a bar tends to be a place where espresso, pastries, and alcoholic beverages are served. If someone says, “Andiamo al bar!”, they’re probably talking about getting their caffeine fix, not necessarily a sports bar or what you’re used to bars being in North America.
When you arrive, you’ll notice most people are standing at the bar. This is the customary way to enjoy your coffee in Italy, and people rarely take their coffee to-go. The idea of “camping out” at cafes doesn’t really exist in Italy. Instead, Italians will stand at the counter, chatting with neighbors or friends, and using this pausa, or break in their day, to unwind before work, after lunch, or after work.
Read: What to Eat in Rome
How do I order coffee in Italy?
Ordering a caffe, also known as a single espresso, can be a little intimidating the first few times you try to do it. Do you pay first, or wait in line to pay? Do you ask for milk in the afternoon? Do they even have drip coffee?
Well, typically, here is the order of operations in ordering an Italian coffee. First, you’ll approach the bar and ask the barista for your drink of choice. It can be as simple as saying, “Un caffe, per favore?”
It’s rare that Italians use anything other than cash for their daily espresso habit. Bring a few euros—most of the time, a simple caffe costs between one and two euros depending on the city you’re in. Big-ticket destinations like Rome in touristy areas may charge more than a small town in Italy’s countryside, but costs will vary.
Most of the time, you’ll order your coffee at the bar, sip your coffee right there , and then proceed to pay your barista. There doesn’t tend to be a line system like in the U.S., so you can pay directly at the bar. You can also leave behind any extra change as a tip.
Be careful when ordering a cappuccino or latte after 11am. The Italian practice of coffee is all oriented around the process of digestion, and they believe milk in the afternoon is upsetting to the body. You can still order your cappuccino, but be prepared for the barista to be a little puzzled.
What do I order?
The types of coffee available on menus in Italy is a little different than you may be used to. Most are espresso-based and they’re much smaller than American coffee drinks. The closest you’ll get to drip coffee is an Americano, which is a shot of espresso with several ounces of hot water. If you want to keep it simple, order a caffe, a single espresso, and order another one after if you haven’t gotten all the caffeine you’re after.
A cappuccino will be fairly similar to what you’re used to: it’s equal parts espresso and steamed milk. You’ll notice the Italian cappuccino may have a thicker layer of milk foam than what you get back home.
A macchiato is also a more classic espresso drink in Italy. It’s a shot of espresso with a dot, or splash of milk. Unlike cappuccinos and lattes, you can order a macchiato at all times of day without judgment, since the quantity of milk is less than an ounce.
What’s even better than a fresh cappuccino or macchiato in Italy? How about some truly unique coffee art? See how we celebrated National Coffee Day with our Facebook community and turned selfies into works of coffee art. Like us on Facebook to join the fun, and see how we are committed to maximizing your precious vacation time by offering an experience that is better, different and truly special.
Experience the art of the Italian coffee break without fear of not knowing how to order coffee in Italy. Now you can enjoy coffee while you’re in port on an Italy cruise before touring historic cathedrals, seeing world-famous Renaissance paintings and sculptures first-hand, or after a well-deserved gelato. Find upcoming itineraries for Italy here or call one of our vacation specialists at 1 (888) 751-7804 to book your perfect cruise vacation.