Taking your coffee in Italy
One of the joys of living in Italy is coffee. You can stop in any town or even petrol stations across the country and find extremely high quality, consistency and at a very affordable price. Compared to the various international chains littering the highstreets across the globe, a coffee in Italy costs between 1 and 2 euros and you will never be disappointed.
But as everything in this wonderful place there are hidden rules and array of choices that are often impenetrable to the outside world. And choices which you didn’t know you had to suite your style and personality. Here is your guide to make the most out of drinking coffee in Italy.
Un caffè: this is an expresso. It’s short, intense, meant to drink very hot and quickly, whist standing up at the bar or after a meal. Never ask for an expresso – it’s un caffè (per favore). Your caffè can be lungo (long) or ristretto (shrunk), if you like it more or less watered down (it will still fit in a small expresso cup though). You can have it macchiato (stained) with a bit of warm frothy milk, al vetro (in a glass rather than cup), corretto (corrected) with a splash of grappa or other types of booze, if you have worked a night shift, or are looking to have a particularly long night out. You shouldn’t have it doppio (double expresso) or two in a row: the flavour of coffee in Italy is very intense, and Italians have many coffees during the day – a doppio would definitely be seen as suspicious (or worse, foreign).
Milk: Italians are not big milk drinkers and don’t want to much of it to spoil their coffee or their delicate stomachs. Those who frequent high street chains will be disappointed that they can’t find massive half litre take away cups full of milk and some coffee to flavour it. The milk in Italian coffee is for breakfast only. So your cappuccino should only be ordered before 11, and you may choose to have it senza schiuma (without froth) if you prefer. A Latte doesn’t actually exist in Italy and creates all sorts of confusion among bar staff and tourists alike. If you are fond of milk you can ask for a latte macchiato, a large glass of milk with a shot of coffee poured into it or a caffelatte, a coffee in a large glass with lots of warm milk poured in. For kids ask for a latte bianco (white milk) just a glass of warm milk. If you really want to have some milk after a meal, ask for a macchiato, or even a macchiatone, a long coffee in a large cup with some frothy milk on top, but never ever for a cappuccino, you will be looked upon with disdain (how could you possibly spoil your meal with a lot of milk at the end of it).
Speciality drinks: Bicerin comes from Piedmont and it combines thick hot chocolate, with coffee and whipped cream (basically a dream!). A Marocchino is a variation, with lots of powdered choccolate and milk foam. A Caffè d’Orzo or Ginsen are non-coffee coffees if you don’t like the taste or can’t have it for health reason, made of barley or ginseng extracts. A Café Hag, is a decaf (named after the leading brand of decaf). A Shakerato is a long coffee shaken with ice and often served in a martini glass. You can also ask for un caffe’ con latte freddo or un cappuccino freddo if it’s a hot day (but never ever after 11 am!)