Coffee, or caffè, is a central part of Italian culture. It seems that just about every other shop is a bar where coffee and pastries are served. Small local coffee shops are so important to Italian life and culture that Starbucks has actually been banned in Italy, so there is no such thing as a Frappuccino. To Americans, Italian coffee and the process of ordering it can be quite confusing. The term latte has an entirely different meaning, and you don’t sit down in the morning with a big cup of joe. In the morning in Italy, you walk across the street to your closest bar. Here, the baristas will soon get to know you and your order. You can order:
- Caffè: simply a shot of espresso
- Caffè latte: A shot of espresso with a hint of milk
- Cappuccino: Espresso brewed with plenty of steamed milk (a more mild option)
- Caffè Americano: A shot of espresso with water added
- Caffè orzo: coffee brewed from barley
- Latte: hot milk
- Granita: “granite,” a frozen coffee slush
Keep in mind never to order a cappuccino past 10:00 AM. Food and tradition are very important to Italians and ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon is like ordering a steak and orange juice for dinner. As odd as this sounds to Americans, it can be insulting to them, and your drink may even be spit in.
When the barista hands you your coffee, it will be a very small cup of espresso that you drink while standing up at the bar and then you will be on your way. As a warning, the espresso is very, very strong. You may want to start with a cappuccino or caffè latte until you become used to it. I recommend finding the closest bar next to your home, go there on a daily basis, get to know the baristas and become a regular!
This post was contributed by Arielle Riggio, who studied abroad with AIFS in Rome, Italy.