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Things to Know About Coffee in Italy


Between navigating airports and thinking that you will get a restful night sleep in economy - traveling can sometimes be a real drag. But it is all worth it when you arrive, even if you're a bit tired. But good news! If you have just arrived in Italy then you are spoilt for choice when it comes to some of the best coffee you can find anywhere. One thing I have learned in traveling Italy is that there are a some unspoken rules about how to enjoy a cup of coffee. To help you avoid that embarrassing moment of looking like a tourist, check out four of the things you need to know about ordering coffee in Italy below.

1. Milk is for the morning. This can be a tough one for us Americans. I love a good cappuccino at any time of day, but you are sure to be the recipient of some sideways glances if you order a milky coffee anytime after lunch or after a meal. Italians feel that you shouldn't have lots of milk on a full stomach. I was personally chastised by an Italian for having a cappuccino after dinner when I was in Switzerland earlier this year. I reassured him that I wasn't too full but he still looked at me rather aghast.

2. You will get a very small cup. I still can find this a tad frustrating if we are going to be honest with each other. I am the first to crave a good 16oz or 20oz coffee - it just seems more satisfying sometimes. In Italy you will be served a tiny cup of espresso. Even if you order a caffe latte it will come in what we Americans might think is a tiny cup. No worries though, you can order un caffe doppio if you want a double size.

3. Just order something normal. Don't try to be fancy and order your unusually complex Starbucks drink in Italy. They will have no idea what you are talking about. Last year my husband was scanning the menu on the wall in a coffee shop and said out loud "Ooh I'd love a macchiato!" and the woman immediately said to him "It isn't like that ones at Starbucks." There are, however, a handful of regional exceptions - one of which is in Naples where I would go for un caffe alla nocciola. Espresso with hazelnut, what's not to love?

4. Make sure you stand. If you want to be cool like the locals, order your caffe at the bar and then stand there to drink it. We learned this in Rome when we stopped at a decidedly un-touristy coffee shop that soon became our new favorite. If you ordered food you would sit down, but the bar was just a line of locals downing their caffeine before heading back to whatever they were doing that day.


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