Coffee: The Rules of Engagement in Italy

Ordering coffee can be tricky when you are in Italy. But coffee is so much a part of the Italian culture that if you skip the coffee bar during your travels in the country, you aren’t taking in the full experience. So we are here to help you navigate the do’s and don’ts of ordering coffee in Italy.

#1 Milk only in the morning

That means no cappuccino after breakfast-time! The same goes for caffé latte, latte macchiato or any other milky form of coffee. Reason for the rule: Milk is heavy and should not be consumed after 11am and never after a meal.

#2 While we are on the subject of milk…

Don’t order a latte unless you want a glass of milk. Because that is exactly how the word is translated into Italian. Try caffè macchiato instead for a little bit of milk with your coffee.

#3 Don’t say ‘espresso’

The word espresso is actually a method of brewing and not a beverage. Instead try saying, un caffè per favore, and the barista will know what you want. And please, please don’t say “expresso” either.

#4 Order at the bar and stand at the bar

Coffee in Italy is intended to be consumed quickly and efficiently in one shot. You will not see Italians sitting down at tables and chairs in the bar while drinking their coffee.

#5 Double shot

Order un caffè doppio if you must, but it isn’t the ordinary thing to do. Be like the locals and return to the bar later if you need another pick-me-up later in the day.

#6 Drink now, pay later

In Italy, it is customary to order and drink your coffee first, then pay at the register when you finish. However, if you find yourself at a tourist trap or the airport and the barista yells “ticket” know that this establishment wants you to pay first and hand him the ticket in exchange for your coffee.

#7 Keep it simple

While there are many different coffee options in Italy, the most common ritual is the following: Cappuccino at breakfast, un caffè or caffè macchiato in the afternoon, and un caffè after dinner if needed.

Looking for more options? Check out the handy guide we found for you. Pin it and save it for later!