Coffe culture in Italy

Gearing up for our upcoming trip and was wondering about what to epect and be prepared for as far as being a serious coffee drinker. I already know not to order coffe with milk in the afternoon but what about the names and styles of drinks to expect. We will be in Milan, Venice, Florence, Siena and smaller towns around there, Amalfi area and Rome. Does anyone have a favorite Barista or coffee shop to share or coffee drink they enjoy? Thanks in advance

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5411 posts

Even the absolute worst barista in Italy knows how to make an espresso way better than Starbucks. There is a bar every 100 yards everywhere. You can order the following: caffe' espresso (or just caffe') Caffe' con panna Cappuccino Caffe' latte Caffe' Americano (espresso diluted with hot water) Caffe' Hag (decaffeinated)
Caffe' Macchiato Don't order a cappuccino with low or non fat milk or the barista will expel you from his bar and ask you to go back to America and never come back.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
806 posts

Drinking an espresso while standing/leaning at the bar is not uncommon. When I was in Naples, espresso and a sfogliatelle (pastry) saved me from experiencing a full-on head explosion (from the chaos and sensory overload of Naples). Ok so I'm exagurating a little, but Italy is probably on of the best places in the world for a good espresso. I'm Eastern European but my sense is that Europe in general doesn't really do "coffee drinks" as much as they do here in the US (they do incredible hot chocolate drinks though) - so expect your coffee a lot stronger (unless you water it down "cafe Americano" style). I would recommend just giving a pure espresso (probably with some sugar) a try - it's good just about everywhere because they know how to make it right.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12675 posts

There will always be a coffee bar. If you sit at a table, the prices will be higher for the table service. Do not, repeat, DO NOT order or get your coffee at the bar and then sit down. Same goes for most other services. As mentioned earlier, it is basically espresso, then espresso with variation of milk. There are no choices of milk. The only milk I have observes being used is the ultra-pasteurized in a carton. I have not seen any of the Starbuck's type of flavored coffee. You can order a latte in the pm but it not common.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5660 posts

In Rome, go at least once to Caffe Sant'Eustachio near the Pantheon. Ron In Rome has lots of info about coffee in Italy.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
1156 posts

Also near The Pantheon is Tasso D'Oro . The Cafe Granita Con Panna ( Espresso ice with unsweetened whipped cream , served with a small spoon ) will blow you away !!

Posted by JustTravel
San Francisco/Venezia
267 posts

In Venice, try Cafe del Doge in the Rialto. I order caffe latte or latte macchiato for the same thing but never latte. At least in Venice, you can order any kind of coffee with milk in the afternoon. It's done all the time.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5411 posts

I forgot to mention that espresso can have 2 variations from the regular standard: CAFFE' LUNGO (long) and CAFFE' RISTRETTO (shrunk). The definitions refer to the length of the percolating setting. With a caffe' lungo the coffee drips longer therefore it is more coffee in the cup, but less strong (more water), with a caffe' ristretto the coffee drips for less time, therefore the espresso is less but it is stronger and richer. However the caffe' lungo has more caffeine than the ristretto (I know that's counterintuitive) One more type of coffee I forgot to mention is the CAFFE' CORRETTO (corrected). That would be espresso with a shot of grappa or other alcoholic drink (whiskey, rum etc.)
It's called correct because you can't go wrong with that one -:)

Posted by Ron
Ron-in-Rome................................ Now, RPT in Atlanta!
1754 posts

Here's the link that Zoe mentioned.. Thanks Zoe!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21440 posts

Marc, If you want to "kick it up a notch" you could also try Caffé Corretto, which is coffee enhanced with a shot of Grappa (or other liqueur). You'll probably find the coffee and serving methods much the same everywhere in Italy. I usually order Caffé Americano if I want a "full" cup, but sometimes in the afternoon I'll just have "Un Caffé" (Espresso). In many cases, you'll order coffee at the Bar and then take the receipt to the Barista. It's usually cheaper to stand at the Bar than to sit. Except for the breakfast service at some Hotels, there will be NO "bottomless cup" - you'll pay for each refill. Cheers!

Posted by Marc
High Falls, NY, USA
20 posts

Gracie everyone. The caffeine varieties will help counter balance all the brunellos and vin nobles I planning to drink

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11637 posts

What, nobody has mentioned a Caffé Marocchino? Search the link above for Ron's photo and description. While it is extremely rare to have a bad caffé in Italy (one in Bologna was borderline), most practitioners will generate plenty good coffee; certainly in a different league from at home. Two special places come to mind, one Firenze and one in Roma - and more different they could not be. We discovered a teeny tiny bar in an alley just around from Trajan's Market (maybe off Via delle Tre Cannelle but I really have to look more closely - it doesn't have a name on a sign - just Bar) with 2 tiny round tables covered in the last couple of days' newspapers, one stool apparently permanently occupied by a companion of the man behind the bar - every time we have gone in she is there - where if you ask for a Caffé Marocchino he will take a good 5 minutes building a work of art in an Espresso glass. When he is done you are welcome to enjoy it either at one of the tables or at the bar. And enjoy it you will - it closely resembles perfection. Price? 80 cents. The other place is completely the other end of the spectrum.
In Firenze, on the end of the Piazza della Repubblica (at 35 Red) is the Caffé Concerto Paszkowski from 1846. Caffé Marocchino there is a work of art - when you get it the caramel and chocolate on top of the panna looks like stained glass. We'll never afford sitting down there but this work of art at the (very nice marble) bar was either €1.30 or €1.50.

Posted by A L
Los Angeles, California, United States
9 posts

This is a great bunch of posts-i am a "coffee snob" also so I am looking forward to SPECIAL PLACES to partake a Coffee and pastry in Venice and FLorence-
any special tips.. and places worth sitting and watching the street.. I don't mind paying for a good cup of COffee-pastry and a place to sit and watch the city unfold.. How early do coffee shops open- any special Italian Pastries I should look to try?? Thanks in advance for more feedback-tips and suggestions!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5411 posts

The Italian word for pastry shop is PASTICCERIA. Most are also bars, therefore they'll be BAR PASTICCERIA - CAFFE'. In Florence's historical center I like Robiglio However this is the top ten ranking according to this website, which is one of the favorite websites for locals. At the end of the article you can see the address of the top 10 pasticcerie. Unfortunately most are outside the Centro Storico, except for the expensive Rivoire in Piazza Signoria (as we all know, the centro storico, being a tourist trap, doesn't always offer the best, and when it does, you pay dearly for it).

Posted by Kim
983 posts

Nigel beat me to it, I too was looking for someone to mention a marocchino. . . . Yum yum.