An essential guide to Italian coffee culture

Ever drunk your espresso sitting down – or ordered a cappuccino in the afternoon? If you’ve done either of these in Italy, then you’re almost certainly not a native. For the lowdown on Italy’s coffee culture, check out our essential guide.

LATTE: Back home, you pride yourself on your excellent pronunciation of “latte” when you order a coffee with a drop of milk. Ask for a “latte” in Italy, however, and you’ll get a cup of nothing but milk– most likely cold. The closest thing to a latte here is a “latte macchiato” – which consists of hot milk with added coffee. As for asking for a “skinny latte” -well, you may as well just give up and go home.

CAPPUCCINO: If you want to show off your Italian cultural awareness, then don’t even think of ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon or after a meal. The very idea of drinking milky coffee on a full stomach is anathema to most Italians.

DE-CAFF: When you order a de-caffeinated coffee in Italy, it’s a bit like ordering a pizza with no topping. So if you’re not a caffeine drinker, it’s probably best to stick to water or a hot chocolate (“cioccolata calda”).

CAFFÈ CORRETTO: Fancy a sneaky splash of alcohol during daylight hours? “Corretto” translates as “correct” – as in the “correct” way to have coffee. Typically, this means adding a drop (or two) of grappa, sambucca or rum to your espresso.

ESPRESSO: If you order a “caffè” in Italy, you’ll always get an espresso. Yes, it doesn’t look like much – but don’t be put off by the tiny cup. An Italian espresso is powerful enough to resurrect elephants.

CAFFÈ LUNGO: If you like your coffee long and strong, try ordering a “caffè lungo”. Not to be confused with a “caffè americano”, a “caffè lungo” is hot water with espresso added to it. As well as being less diluted than a “caffè americano”, it’s also far more authentic.

CAFFÈ AMERICANO: Don’t like the sound of a caffe lungo? OK – go ahead and order a caffé Americano – which is an espresso topped up with hot water. It’ll be a dead give-away that you’re a tourist.

AL BANCO: If you want to avoid making a large hole in your wallet, order your coffee at the bar. Italian cafe menus will often have two prices – one for the table (al tavolo) and one for the bar (al banco) – which is cheaper. You’ll find that most Italians drink their espresso at the bar.

CAFFÈ MACCHIATO: If you really can’t do without a splash of milk in your coffee, then why not try a “caffè macchiato”? No, not the kind of macchiato you order at home. In Italy, it’s an espresso topped with a tiny frothy cloud of milk.

Pino Silvestri

About Pino Silvestri

Pino Silvestri, blogger per diletto, fondatore, autore di Virtualblognews, presente su Facebook e Twitter.
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