Italian Coffee Culture.
Why Coffee in Italy is Such a Big Deal.
Once you hop off your red-eye flight and drop into Italy for the first time, you'll want to do a bee-line for coffee. Italy is intense and you'll need a shot of espresso to fire up your brain.
But where's a weary traveler to go for coffee in Italy? There's no Starbucks*, no Peet's... so where do you go?
Hit the local bar.
Coffee in Italy is molto importante. Espresso is woven deeply into the fabric of Italian daily life. Italians take their coffee throughout the day, heading to the local bar to get their coffee fix.
Italian "bars" are different from the typical bars in the States. In Italy, a bar is where locals congregate to grab a morning cappuccino or espresso while chomping on a jam-filled cornetto (an Italian croissant) or maybe a salami and cheese panini.
Sure, you can get a little nip of vino or liquor at an Italian bar, but in Italy the bar is where the coffee action is.
The Inside Scoop on Italian Coffee.
Once you arrive in Italy, there are a few tips and tricks that locals and in-the-know travelers use to find great coffee and that make ordering Italian-style coffee easy.
To help you become a pro at ordering coffee in Italy, our vagabond roaster Michael Horne pairs up with Italy travel pro Katy Clarke on her fun and super popular Untold Italy podcast.
We're sharing tips and tricks on how to go deep into the Italian coffee scene, stories about coffee history in Italy and ordering rituals that are distinctly Italian, and even where to find some of Italy's best coffee bars.
Come join us on the pod and you'll learn firsthand about:
When did coffee arrive in Italy?
The first coffee houses started to appear in Venice in the early 1600s. The Pope had something to do with it. [03:45]
Where can I buy a coffee in Italy?
Hit the caffè bars in town, where locals congregate, share gossip, and catch the latest calcio (soccer) match. [06:25]
What is a Caffè Macchiato?
Caffè Macchiato is an espresso "marked" with a little bit of milk foam. Italians have it any time of day. [09:50]
Why is coffee so small in Italy?
A traditional espresso is just half an ounce of lovely elixir. Want more? Ask for a doppio or a caffè lungo. [11:50]
Why do Italians serve sparkling water with their espresso?
The barista often serves an espresso with a small glass of fizzy, sparkling water. Use it to cleanse your palate before you drink your espresso. [13:20]
How do you order a "regular" cup of coffee?
If you want that classic American coffee experience, just ask for a caffè Americano. It's a shot (or ask for a doppio) of espresso topped up with hot water. [13:45]
Do the Italians drink iced coffee?
Yes, it's called a caffè shakerato and it's damn good. It's a great alternative to cold brew, which isn't a thing in Italy (yet). [16:00]
Why do the Italians add sugar to their espresso?
There's a tradition in adding sugar to your espresso to compliment the bitterness of the Italian roasting style. New artisanal coffee bars shun adding sugar, but it's your call. [16:45]
How do I pay for my coffee order?
Two ways: either pay in advance at the cashier (most common), or you pay after you finish your coffee. [18:55]
Where do I drink my coffee?
Usually you drink coffee at the bar, standing side-by-side with the locals. You can also have coffee at a table or on the piazza, though prices double. [20:30]
What famous coffee bars should I visit?
Check out Caffè Gilli, the oldest cafe in Florence. Milan's famous Caffè Cucchi is an institution with amazing sweets. When in Rome, take a coffee at Caffè Sant'Eustachio where they roast their beans over a wood fire. In Venice, taking coffee on St. Mark's square at Caffè Florian is a bucket-list priority. [25:30]
Is the coffee at the Autogrill drinkable?
100 percent. If you're driving in Italy, stop at any Autogrill along the Autostrada for a tasty coffee pick-me-up. [31:40]
Why can't I order a Cappuccino after 11 AM?
The Italians don’t do milk-based drinks after 11AM. It messes with your lunch and hurts your digestion — so they say. But yes, you can still order it if you want to. [35:07]
What is a caffè corretto?
Be uber-local and order this "corrected coffee" anytime, it's a shot of espresso "corrected" with a small pour of grappa or Sambuca. [37:50]
Listen to the podcast
More about the Podcast
You can listen to the podcast with full show notes here.
Want a transcript of the podcast? You'll find it here.
* About Starbucks in Italy: Yes, you can find a few Starbucks coffee shops in Milan and Florence, but it's really just a show for tourists. Coffee at Starbucks costs triple the price at a local coffee bar, and the locals just don't see the point. Skip Starbucks and go local for the real Italian coffee experience.
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