The secrets of how to order coffee in Italy

You may or may not be aware of the importance of coffee in Italian culture. The locals embrace every cup of coffee – drinking it is an enjoyable and relaxing moment to enjoy the flavour and smell of the coffee, with friends or family or during a quick coffee break (‘una pausa‘). But do you really know how to order it? Here’s a short guide for you to use in Italy so you can ‘act like an Italian’ at the local coffee bar.

Stand, don’t sit

First of all, when taking your coffee you stand at the bar with all the other Italians to drink it. In the larger towns and cities, they usually charge a supplement for sitting at a table.

Milk is for the morning

Part of the Italian coffee-drinking etiquette is to only drink milky coffees in the morning. Never after a meal. If you do order a cappuccino, caffè latte or a latte macchiato after lunchtime, you may get a funny look, but you will be served it nonetheless.

Size matters

There are no size differentials in Italy. Request a grande or a venti and you’ll be met with confusion. It’s standard sizes here.

Latte is not a latte

If you’re looking forward to a milky coffee, served in a glass, prepare to be disappointed. In Italy, asking for a latte is asking for a simple cup of cold milk. Remember to put “caffè” before it when ordering.

Ask for an Americano and you may get alcohol

Similar to ordering a latte, you should remember to put “caffè”  before Americano. This is because in Italy, an Americano is a strong aperitivo!

Now you know the dos and donts, here’s how to order the following types of coffee:

Caffè

When you order a simple caffè, an espresso will be served, by default. It’s the traditional strong shot of coffee. You can ask for this either lungo (long) or corto (short). In Italy they don’t use the word espresso because there’s no other coffee to differentiate it from. It will be served in a small cup on a saucer with a small spoon.

Caffè

Caffè Americano

Or simply ‘Americano’ is the classic large black coffee (espresso filled with hot water). If you want it with milk, say ‘con latte’.

Caffè Americano

Cappuccino (or ‘cappuccio’)

This will come in a large cup, as an espresso with a froth of steamed milk on top. Don’t make the mistake: ordering a cappuccino straight after lunch/dinner is not Italian at all, as it’s considered too heavy on the stomach. Cappuccino is traditionally taken in the morning, along with cookies or a flaky pastry.

Cappuccino

Caffè latte

A cup of hot milk with an espresso. Don’t confuse it with caffè macchiato! It’s rarely ordered at a bar, more likely to be enjoyed in the home, served in a mug or a bowl (perfect for dipping biscuits in!). Many Italians make it in a Moka pot (small coffee machine).

Caffè latte

Caffè macchiato

It’s an espresso ‘stained’ with a dash of milk. You can also ask for ‘macchiato caldo‘ (hot milk) or ‘macchiato freddo‘ (cold milk).

Latte macchiato

The opposite of a caffè macchiato. It’s a cup or glass of hot milk ‘stained’ with a dash of coffee!

Latte macchiato

Caffè doppio

This is two shots of caffè (espresso).

Caffè marocchino

This is becoming more and more popular in Milan and northern Italy, and was invented in Piedmont. It consists of a shot of espresso served in a glass, with frothed milk and cocoa powder sprinkled over. In some regions of northern Italy, thick hot cocoa is also added, and in Alba (home of Ferrero), Nutella is used.

Caffè marocchino

Caffè corretto

Caffè ‘corrected’ with grappa, sambuca or another liquor – strong, so not to be ordered at breakfast!

Caff蠠decaffeinato

Decaffeinated coffee.

“Prendiamo un caffè?” – fancy a coffee?

Tina James is the Managing Director at Headwater Holidays.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Comments (11)

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  1. Nausheen says:

    Thanks for the tips, very useful information for a coffee-addict like me, good to learn the right way to order Coffee in Italy :)

  2. Tina James says:

    Hi Nausheen, glad you’ve found the post useful! These are the insider tips from our Italian team member, Alessia. Let us know how you get on when ordering coffee in Italy :)

  3. Tabitha says:

    Wow the caffe marocchino sounds incredible, especially with Nutella involved! These are some great tips all around. Remember as well that coffee will be served just hot enough to down in one in Italy, so if you’re after a hot coffee to blow on for a while ask for a caffe bollente.

  4. Tina James says:

    Hi Tabitha, I agree that the caffe marocchino sounds delicious, I’ll definitely be trying it! Thanks for your helpful tip about the hot coffee too.

  5. Miki says:

    I loved this post! I particularly enjoy coffee in both Italy and Spain, and I occasionally like a second Caffe latte in the afternoon. I don’t look like a local, so I don’t really get the funny looks. :)

    Xo,
    Miki

  6. Tina James says:

    Hi Miki, glad you enjoyed our post – we might do a post on ordering coffee in Spain next! Thanks, Tina.

  7. Paul Johnson says:

    This post generated lots of interest, Tina, so that sounds like a great idea!

  8. Rubina says:

    What a great post!

    As a coffee addict, this explained a lot and I look forward to trying out a few of the suggestions above, especially the caffe morocchino on my future travels to Italy.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  9. Stef Smulders says:

    Very complete, complimenti. Just wanted to add that the price, by law, of an espresso at the bar is 1€ and a cappuccino €1,40. Never let them charge you more! And the barista is obliged to give you the receipt.

  10. Maira says:

    This is on my to-do list, I will be traveling to Italy in November and definitely gonna follow the suggestions. The caffè marocchino I can’t take my eyes off it.. very excited to try this :) Thanks for sharing.

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