The smell of freshly brewed coffee and the sight of flocks of birds circling above the Piazza. A fountain trickles in the centre and the sound of laughter can be heard all around. There’s no European experience quite like sipping on an espresso in the heart of an Italian town. And so you can have this authentic experience for yourself, here’s a guide to the art of ordering coffee in Italy just like an Italian!
Types of Coffee Served in Italy
There are several types of coffee that you can order while in Italy, although you should be aware that all the options below won’t always be available. There are no pumpkin spice lattés or frappuccinos to be found in typically Italian coffee shops, and most of the time the only things available will be espressos and americanos.
Caffè: Although this simply translates to ‘coffee,’ say the word ‘caffè’ to any Italian, and they’ll likely picture a small espresso!
Caffè Hag: A decaffeinated espresso.
Cappuccino: An espresso with warm steamed milk on top. This will typically be served with a spoon and a few sugar cubes. A cappuccino you taste in Italy will be unlike any you’ve ever had before and is a quintessentially Italian beverage!
Caffè Latte: If you want coffee in your latté then you *must* say the word caffè. This is an espresso shot with warm milk poured on top.
Caffè Americano: As the name suggests, this coffee is pretty much your standard Americano. While most Italians would never personally drink an Americano, it’s usually an espresso shot watered down with extra hot water.
Caffè Macchiato: More milk than coffee, this is an espresso topped up with steamed milk.
Caffè Corretto: This ‘corrected’ or adjusted espresso is served with a little liqueur; typically grappa, sambuca, or cognac.
Caffè Freddo: While no frappuccinos are normally available, the popular drink of a cold coffee is typically served with sugar, ice and is incredibly popular in the summer months when the temperature soars!
You should know…
A Café is called ‘a bar’. When you’re searching for somewhere to purchase your morning coffee, and then don’t be surprised if a local points you towards ‘a bar’. They’re not showing you the best place to sample local wine, instead, they’re pointing out the best place to enjoy a morning espresso! Yes, the bar serves alcohol in the evening, but it’s also where locals go for soft drinks and food throughout the day.
A coffee is called un caffè. And you should know that when ordering coffee in Italy, unless you specify, it’s implied that you want an espresso. If you want something other than a short shot of black coffee, then you’ll have to say the exact coffee you want (read about some Italian coffee vocabulary below, and the types of coffee to order above!)
You should never order a cappuccino after midday. Italians believe that milk later in the day is bad for the digestive system (among other things) and so a cappuccino should only be drunk in the morning if you have to have the authentic Italian experience! In most places, even if you want to purchase a cappuccino, you’ll most likely be refused in lieu of an espresso.
A latté doesn’t contain coffee in Italy. Don’t make the mistake I did and order a latté. That is, unless you simply want a cup of warm milk, in which case, go right ahead! In Italy, latté just means milk and the only coffees available are cappuccinos, espressos, and macchiatos.
Check out how to pay: Sometimes you ask for your bill and pay at your table, and at other times it’s normal to head to the counter on your way out to pay. Try and see what others are doing, but generally, if you’ve ordered from your table, you’ll probably pay while sitting at your table. And if you’ve ordered while standing at the counter? Well, just try and see what others are doing!
Ordering Coffee in Italy Vocabulary
“Prendiamo un caffè?” – Fancy a coffee?
“Buongiorno, un caffè per favore” – Hello, a coffee, please.
Lungo – The Italian word for ‘long’ is perfect for if you want a diluted coffee and longer style of drink.
Cioccolata Calda – How to say ‘hot chocolate’ for if you want a warm beverage but don’t want to order a coffee!
Tè – This word means tea and is pronounced ‘teh’.
Other Italian words: If you’re looking for more Italian greetings, then you can read my complete guide to basic Italian phrases here!