The Fascinating Story of the Coffee Culture in Italy

Coffee in Italy isn’t just a beverage: it is a part of life.

It is considered, in my opinion, as a very significant symbol of Italian culture, maybe the most important, or at least alongside pizza, pasta and coffee.

I’m going to tell you a story….

As you may already know, the founder of the well known company Starbucks got the idea of creating his business after a trip to Italy, where he had the opportunity to come into contact with the Italian CULTure of coffee.

Starbucks has achieved great success all around the world, I would say in every corner of the world but it only recently announced a partnership to open the first Starbucks store in Italy in 2017.

Weird , isn’t it?

The reason why Italian people might not like it is because Starbucks promotes an image of coffee that’s completely different from the real Italian one. Coffee in Italy isn’t just a beverage…it is more about the moment.

Italians find a way to have a coffee during most occasions throughout a day. It is a kind of friend that is always with us.

Some of these occasions include… meeting a friend for a coffee, having a coffee for breakfast, having a coffee during a break at work, having a coffee after lunch or after dinner.

In the southern part of Italy in particular, it is very common to invite someone to your home to have a coffee together… And woe betide you should you refuse it! Southern people tend to get very offended by this.

I almost forget to mention the most important thing: for Italians, coffee is espresso, and that’s it. We don’t even contemplate the existence of other types of coffee, like the American one (the soluble coffee), furthermore Italian people in general just despise it.

Have you ever seen an Italian abroad while being offered an American coffee? The typical answer is: “Why should I drink this disgust???”

So, imagine that you are in Italy and you want a coffee. You go into a bar (remember that for us a bar is just a bar and not a cocktail bar or anything else) and you ask for a coffee…

“Salve, un caffe` per favore!” or  “Buongiorno, mi fa un caffe` per favore?”

Cappuccino bunny

There is no need to say espresso, as I mentioned espresso is the only coffee that you can get in a real Italian bar. But don’t worry, there are many kinds of espresso….

  • espresso, the plain one
  • macchiato, with a little bit of milk, that can be freddo (cold) or caldo (hot)
  • ristretto, it means shorter than usual
  • lungo, longer than usual
  • decaffeinato, or simply dec, with no caffeine
  • corretto, with some drops of a liquor (usually sambuca)
  • al ginseng
  • d’orzo, (with barley extract)
  • Marocchino, literally Moroccan, that’s a coffee with milk foam and cocoa
  • Caffe` shekerato, perfect during the summer period, as the coffee is shaken with some ice

There are many other types of coffees, but these are definitely the Italian favourites. Don’t forget that you can also mix them, having for example a “macchiato freddo lungo” or a “ristretto corretto”…

If you are wondering if the bar men go crazy with all of these requests, don’t worry! They are used to being asked for many different combinations.

Now you have all that you need to order a coffee in an Italian bar, we’re looking forward to hearing if you succeed in doing so during a Flavours holiday.

photo credit: toyohara

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Flavours Blog

Food, Recipes, Lifestyle and Travel blog – by the Flavours Holidays team.