Yes, drinking coffee in Italy can be a little intimidating but well worth the experience!
Coffee may not have started in Italy, but it certainly has been perfected here! There are social rules for drinking coffee in Italy.
For example, don’t order a cappuccino after 11 AM. Because it a milk based coffee it is considered “heavy” for the stomach.
That’s why you don’t order it after 11 AM or after a meal. Conversely, you can order an espresso anytime.
In Italy, if you order a caffé, you’ll get an espresso. But don’t expect a huge 12 or 20 oz. cup of coffee.
Espresso is served in small cup called a “demitasse.” It’s a very strong cup of coffee. If you want a bigger coffee- and the jolt that goes with it – order a caffé doppio.
It’s simply a double espresso. Below we will define many of the coffees you can order in Italy.
When you order a coffee in the morning, you’ll often take your coffee standing at the counter.
Now a coffee “bar” to us is like a cafe, so don’t be intimidated by the word bar. An Italian bar offers everything from coffee to freshly squeezed juice, from Grappa to a shot of Jack Daniels.
If you sit down at a table, your coffee is more likely to cost more. Many bars in Italy have a two-price structure.
If you drink at the bar, your coffee will probably cost about half as much as it does when you sit at a table and are waited on.
We do both – sometimes it great just to sit and relax and enjoy the scenery. In our neighborhood we pay about 60-80 centisimo for a caffé. If you want just want a quick caffé, just walk up and order at the bar.
Italians usually drink their coffee on the spot without even sitting. You’ll see many locals in the morning on their way to work stopping at the bar for a quick caffé.
In smaller bars, you order your coffee and then upon finishing, you pay. When you are finished and want to leave, you must usually return to the bar counter to pay (or a separate cassa). In our bar, we wait for either of the bartenders to head for the cash stand.
Sometimes you have to remind the bartenders of what you ordered!
At the larger bars, you’ll pay at the cashier (cassa) first and then place your receipt on the counter from which the barista (“bartender”) will take your receipt, often verify what you ordered and then go into action!
To expedite our order in a crowded bar, many folks will place a small tip (10-20 centesimo) on top of the receipt – although few locals do this. When paying, always place your money in the tray near the cash register – money is not handed directly.
The challenge, as you saw from the cartoon, is here you can order more than just a caffé… so let’s look at the myriad of coffee choices.