Italian Coffee Culture: a Guide for Non-Italians

Some coffee insight on Italian coffee culture for non-Italians visiting Rome. First of all “ Starbucks “ does NOT exist here. There is one place that is a slight imitation of Starbucks called “ Busters Coffee“ , but this is the exception not the norm. However if you are looking for a morning coffee in Italy first off look for a sign that says “ BAR “, don’t confuse this with the nightlife counterpart. Bar here refers to “café bar”. We recommend that when you enter make sure you take the appropriate steps:

Steps to Feeling at Ease with Italian Coffee Culture in any Café (Bar) in Italy

  1. Important: You pay first, order after. Walk to the cashier and pay for your café and pastry or whatever it is that you plan or ordering.
  2. Take your receipt to the barman, putting it on the counter in front of you. The receipt will probably only state how much you paid so when the barman approaches you restate your order: “Un caffe, per favore”. If you want a tall cup of coffee order an “Americano”. However, be prepared for a bit of mockery. Italians do not order this. Just a particular visitor, hence the name “Americano”.
  3. This most appropriate thing to order is a caffe (pronounced exactly like café) which is a short glass of espresso coffee. You take it on one… maybe two sips and you get out. For a country known for it’s lackadaisical culture, Italians move quite quickly through a café bar.
  4. Tip, this is not necessary but if you do its a arbitrary amount of a few cents.
  5. Repeat: Its appropriate to drink café a few times a day. You can order a double or cappuccino in the morning, but after breakfast hours keep it limited to a single or macchiato. Repeat after lunch and dinner.

When it comes to Italian eating and drinking etiquette, unless you want to raise some eyebrows, it’s best to stick to the rules.

Buon Café / Buon Lavoro

Coffee in the work place in America usually consists of large sugary cups of many different varieties, hence the names labeled on the cup.

“Frappucino… latte… whipped cream…light… dark… sweet… pump of flavor… double triple shot of caffeine mixed with more caffeine…”

In Italy your coworker takes a trip to the nearest bar and comes back with rather tiny plastic cups with not much diversity: caffe or macchiato (remember it’s after breakfast).

Often imitated, never duplicated

In conclusion, remember that Italy was the original café culture to inspire the coffee craze of the U.S. I suggest you leave your big white paper coffee cups at home and dive head first into the delicious café culture of Italy. They were the originals after all.

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