Let’s talk coffee, it’s a beverage, that for many of us, is apart of our daily routine. A lot of us need that coffee in the morning just to be a functioning adult (Yay adulting!). Now what happens when you are in a different country and you want that hot bitter delight?
Well first off, make sure you go to a country that has coffee like, let say, Italy. I’m biased but I truly believe down to my core that Italy brews the best coffee in the world; Turkey being the second. I am sorry. I am not a French press kind of guy and think the French don’t really know how to make a cup of joe…. Anyways, I digress. Let’s go back to Italy, specifically Rome (the city we know and love) and coffee.
The Italians love their coffee and they take it very seriously. The Italian coffee bar can be loud, quick paced, and at the same time relaxed. It is an integral part of the culture and we want you to be able to order coffee in Italy like a pro.
How To Order Coffee in Italy like a Pro!
Okay people, the first thing to do when you walk into a coffee bar is to head right over to the register, not the bar where everybody is enjoying their coffee. Order your coffee, pay for it and then take your receipt up to the bar. DON’T LOSE YOUR RECEIPT.
When you first step into a coffee bar it can be intimidating but as long as you know that you pay first you will be fine. Now not every coffee bar will follow this rule. Sometimes the person manning the register will be taking a coffee break or a smoke break or just won’t care. But always attempt to pay first because if you don’t someone will probably get upset… It’s just easier to pay first and go with it. If they wave you over to the bar to order then do that. Coffee bars in Italy are fluid so attempt to pay and if it doesn’t work then go with the flow.
Know Your Order Before They Ask
There will not be a menu and since you already paid you should know what you’re getting. But seriously, the barista will move on to the next person if you don’t get your order out when they ask you. The Italian coffee bar is the exact opposite of the Italian attitude. It is the one place where you’ve got to be ready to order and there is no slacking.
So to help you with your order here are some different types of coffee you can order in Italy
This is probably the most popular beverage ordered in all of Italy besides just espresso and I am sure almost all of you know what it is. But just in case, here is a refresher. A cappuccino is a shot of espresso topped with half steamed milk and half foam. And they are the best in Italy. I don’t know what they do but somehow they are just better here. Even if the milk has been sitting out and foamed several times, it’s going to be good. It is a mystery but a delicious one I have no intention of solving.
A caffe is just a simple shot of espresso. This comes no frills in a small espresso cup and you are more than welcome to drown it in sugar like most Italians. I know in the States, there is a trend to just take espresso black but in Italy you will almost always find Italians adding at least two packs of sugar to their espresso. Just make sure to finish your espresso within three sips; there is no dawdling over espresso when taking it at the bar.
Macchiato means spot in Italian and essentially it is a shot of espresso with just a spot of steamed milk and foam. It is a baby cappuccino. This is perfect for people who don’t want a full cappuccino but also want something to cut their espresso other than sugar.
Now we are getting into the good stuff. A caffe corretto is translated to a correct coffee and that can mean only one thing, that it has alcohol in it. When you order a caffe corretto it usually comes with a big old shot of grappa in it or sometimes sambuca. You can also specify which alcohol comes with as well by saying “Un caffe corretto con…. (whiskey, rum, etc…) but grappa will always hold a special place in our hearts!
If you are looking to get something closer to American coffee you can order an americano. The americano was originally created in Italy during World War II for the American soldiers to recreate American drip coffee. An americano is espresso with hot water to dilute it. Occasionally you will get drip coffee when you order this but it mostly likely will be in larger hotels and places that cater to American tourists.
This is my favorite way to cool off in the summer and also feel super fancy. A shakarato is basically hot espresso shaken with a ton of ice and sugar. It is then served in a martini glass (if you are lucky).
Do you need more than just the average kick of caffeine? Then order a doppio aka a double espresso. That will certainly wake you right up!
A caffe corto is for you espresso fans who just need a quick kick to get going but don’t want two espresso shots. A corto is made with half the amount of water than a regular espresso shot so expect the espresso and caffeine to be much more concentrated.
A caffe lungo is the exact opposite of a caffe corto. It is a shot of espresso with added water, so that the shot is more diluted. And perhaps more water for all that sugar to dissolve in.
If you want a latte like we have in the States then you are going to have to specify a cafe latte. If you just say “latte” then you will receive a steaming hot cup of milk and no coffee.
This is the basic list of the types of coffee you can get in Italy. They usually don’t go for anything fancier than that so don’t expect a mocha or anything.
(If you are truly craving a hot chocolate though make sure to check out Bar San Callisto in Trastevere for the best hot chocolate of your life!)
Drink Your Coffee at the Bar
Once you get your coffee at the bar, drink it at the bar. Don’t go and sit down unless there are no servers. Most places will have servers so if you want to sit just go and do it before you pay.
Note – You will almost always pay a service charge for sitting down. And if you are anywhere near a public monument it will probably be quite pricey. Most coffees in the city will range between €1-€4 max but if you sit down don’t be surprised to pay upwards of €6-€15. Seriously. One of the most expensive places to have coffee is by the Spanish Steps at Antico Caffe Greco although Keats and Shelley used to drink coffee there so you are paying for that.
So now that you know how to pay first, order at the bar and what to order; now here is how to do it in Italian:
Phrases to Help You Order Like an Italian
I would like – Vorrei un
Thank You – Grazie
Where do I pay? – Dove devo pagare?
May I sit? – Posso sedermi?
Have a good day at work (essentially) – Buon lavoro
Coperto – Cover Charge
Don’t Order a Cappuccino After 10:30am…. Or Maybe Not…
So there is this big rumor that you can’t order a cappuccino after 10:30am. While this may have been true at one point, it isn’t so much anymore. Today you can order a cappuccino throughout the day without too much ire from Italians and they usually will be consuming one next to you.
There is really only one time you SHOULD NOT order a cappuccino and that is after a meal. This is considered an insult as the food wasn’t filling enough and so you need a milk filled coffee to fill up. An espresso is perfectly fine to order as it aides in digestion but not so much the cappuccino.
Our Favorite Coffee Shops in Rome
Drinking coffee is an essential part of Roman life and you will certainly need to stop and take a coffee break while touring around the city so here are our favorite places to grab an espresso!
Piazza di S. Calisto, 4
Bar San Callisto is located in the heart of Trastevere and I have already mentioned it for their amazing hot chocolate but they are also noteworthy because they are the longest continually operated coffee bar in the city and in Rome, well that is saying something. San Callisto is the perfect spot for an afternoon coffee shop and for people watching. You will always see old men here playing scopa (an Italian card game) during the day and in the evening young Romans will appear to drink prosecco and people watch. This is one bar where you can sit outside and the server will come to you and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg so enjoy it!
Piazza Sant’Eustachio, 82
Sant’Eustachio is located just by the Pantheon and is another old school coffee bar. They have been around since the 1930s and have been roasted their own beans which are then blended with water from an ancient aqueduct, ooh fancy! Their coffee is combined with sugar before they make your espresso so make sure that you ask for no sugar (Senza zucchero) before ordering if you don’t want it! Also if you fall in love with their espresso, you can always buy some to go or order online and have it shipped to you!
La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro
Via degli Orfani, 84
Located just around the corner from the Pantheon, Tazza D’Oro is most famous for their granita. Granita is usually a shaved ice with syrups drizzled on top (and in the summer you can find stands all around the Tiber), but here it is icy and fluffy coffee flavored deliciousness topped with panna (super thick whipped cream). You can get other coffees here but it is a tad expensive so you might want to stick with just the granita at three euros.
Your Local Coffee Bar
If you are staying in Rome a couple of days, I would suggest frequenting a coffee bar near your accommodations several times. Romans love seeing repeat customers and having locals in daily so try to become a local, even if for just a few days. There is nothing better than being treated like a local even when you aren’t!
So now you know how to order coffee in Italy like a pro!
*Italy is HIGHLY regional so most of these tips and suggestions we have pooled together are from our time living in Rome. If you guys know of any other tips, suggestions or cultural habits of Italian coffee drinkers that are different from what we have let us know! We unfortunately didn’t explore all of Italy so we are always interested in all the regional differences!*
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