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Take away coffee in Rome.

Friendly update on Rick's super helpful book on Rome. We have found a few coffee shops that offer coffee to go. Having a great time thanks to your informative book, thanks!

Posted by
11613 posts

Almost any bar will have coffee to go. I see people bringing coffee onto trains often.

People do not walk around sipping from a 24-ounce cup, but that may change now that Starbucks has a foothold in Milano. There goes the neighborhood.

Posted by
7124 posts

This post brought a flashback to my first Italian espresso. It was 1987 and I was 22yo, just arrived at Termini after a very rough night train ride from Milan. I was not really a coffee drinker back then, but I needed a kick start before heading on to Naples and Sorrento. How was I to know that ordering "una cafe" would get me a very strong espresso. It certainly did the trick.

Posted by
1018 posts

All you need to do is ask for a, "caffe portar via." It means a coffee to go. It might be helpful to learn some Italian coffee terms. When you ask for a caffe you will receive an expresso. Cappuccinos are not consumed by Italians after noon. They regard these as breakfast drinks, but you won't have any problems obtaining one after 12pm. Macchiato means "stained" and it is an expresso with a small dose of milk or foam. Anyway, Google Italian coffee terms and you will find the info.

go and have fun and remember, you will be in Italy and not at home.

Buon viaggio,

Posted by
904 posts

RB has good advice. But, if you speak Italian to an Italian be ready for their reply, it will be in Italian. That makes it really fun I think.

Portare via is the expression for taking anything away from the premises and is a useful phrase for many things.

Posted by
7735 posts

And unlike Starbucks in the US, if you ask for a "latte", they are going to hand you a glass of milk. (And since I'm writing this from the land of Starbucks, I do have to say that the correct word is "espresso", not "expresso.")

Posted by
11658 posts

They'll know for sure that you're a foreigner if you ask for "expresso", although they can usually tell just by looking at us. :O)

Posted by
6211 posts

Where are you taking the coffee (away to), out of curiosity? It's really nice to linger at a cafe (why not throw in a dessert as well?) and just people watch.

Posted by
11658 posts

It is, Agnes, but I also understand the desire to keep moving when time is short (have to get to the appointed reservation at the museum) and one needs a pick-me-up, or some joe to take on an early train.

Posted by
23728 posts

Since Italian caffé is not overly hot, and quantity is not large, I fail to understand how a take away coffee would be drunk. I normally have one or two short sips of the coffee, then all at once after that. Within a minute, or two at the most, I am leaving the bar and back on the street.

Italians often are similar.

If eating a cornetto it may take one or so minutes longer.

Posted by
6211 posts

I agree with Nigel. If you need a quick boost and you're somewhat in a hurry, then just order an espresso. It takes (me) about 30 seconds to drink an espresso at the bar, maybe a little longer if it's hot. Is coffee to go a new tradition in Rome? I didn't notice it, but then again it's been a while. I remember having many espressos and small pastries (often cornetti) just standing at the bar.

Posted by
11613 posts

I agree with Agnes, Nigel, and Kathy. I have taken a cappuccino on an early train (not the easiest thing to juggle if you have luggage). If you can't stop for literally one minute to order a coffee at a bar, wait for it to be made (also required for coffee to go), and take 30 seconds to drink it there, you may be moving too fast. Show some respect for the coffee!

Posted by
752 posts

I've Not seen take away coffee, and be aware that Not everyone knows the meaning of portar via! I used it once to a waiter in Amaseno my hometown (Frosinone Lazio) and she threw everything in the trash, including their delicious homemade pasta! I was devastated! So i stopped throwing that term around and instead use longer sentences and gestures to find out if i can portar via! If No, they do get a laugh out of my efforts!

Posted by
11977 posts

Why the hell do you need espresso da portare via (to go)? That is seriously American BS pure and simple.

Caffè Espresso (the real stuff) doesn't come in 20 oz, it's no more than 2 oz. Cappuccino (the real one like the one you get in Italy) is not much larger. It takes me a second flat to drink a cup of espresso at the coffee bar counter. What can you possibly need to do in such a hurry that you don't have one second to drink it at the bar? If you don't have time for 1 second why do you bother to enter the bar in the first place? To enjoy the pleasure of a cold espresso served in a paper Dixie cup?

Posted by
7735 posts

Sounds like Roberto might have had a little too much coffee himself this morning. :-)

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks, Roberto, for saying what I really wanted to say. I seriously padded the time frame.

Gary, it was nice of you to share the information, even if it fell on some unappreciative eyes.

Posted by
11658 posts

Haha! My problem is probably that I can't drink straight espresso. I know I'd probably love it but it would tear my stomach to shreds; very strong coffee undiluted with milk does that to me.

But if I could, 30 seconds would be more than enough!

Posted by
62 posts

I'd like to point that coffee to go ("a portar via") is not a recent thing in Italy. Nor it is done for the same reasons it is done abroad, and I think it's not a minor detail either. I'm in my forties and this is how I've always seen it done since I was a child: "caffè a portar via" is/are bought for those who are so busy they can't even get to the bar to get one themselves. You either get a tray from the barista and take the coffees, or the guy (or girl!) will give you plastic, paper or (more recently) styrofoam cups. For instance I'm a regular at a place that sees lots of policemen and nurses stopping by: they load their trays or stuff their hands with coffee cups, and off they go with their colleagues' orders!

Posted by
767 posts

There are many times I have taken a coffee to go in Italy
- wanted to go wait on my train platform (already mentioned)
-I had already enjoyed a cup and needed to get going. But the coffee was so good, I just wanted a little more
-the bar was crowded and there wasn't really a place to sit or stand. So I took my coffee to meander and people watch rather than stay in a crowded area. This is actually the most common reason.

And poor Gary never explicitly stated espresso- this was brought up in a later post.

Posted by
6211 posts

"caffè a portar via" is/are bought for those who are so busy they can't even get to the bar to get one themselves.

Does that include tourists?

Posted by
308 posts

Roberto I think everyone is entitled to have a coffee the way they want them. Having said this I miss having coffee the german way while in Italy..with a great piece of kuchen and a kannchen of coffee, taking time to chat and enjoy the afternoon lol. When I go to Italy I know coffee culture is different and accept it. However we did encounter places and also in Florence where we were asked if we wanted it to go. And yes we took a large, brought it back to our apartment and enjoyed it with our breakfast. Every culture is different and we should not be picking on different coffee cultures but embrace them.

Posted by
62 posts

"caffè a portar via" is/are bought for those who are so busy they can't even get to the bar to get one themselves.

Does that include tourists?

I was referring specifically to Italians, what with take away coffee not being a recent thing, but of course yes - why wouldn't tourists be allowed to take away their own hot beverages?
Just be advised that there's really just a handful of places serving American coffees or Starbucks-style lattes or whatever you prefer in the morning: Arnold (in Milan) comes to mind. Or Vintro in Rome. I'm sure others in the forum can suggest places that offer decent American-like coffee, but I digress!

Posted by
2773 posts

You can call me a hick but I was glad we rented apartments on our trip to Italy so I could make our coffee properly! Either in a drip coffee maker which some apartments provide, or on a burner in a mocha and then supplemented with hot water to make a proper cupful. An espresso is a poor cousin to a proper coffee, IMO, gone too soon and way too small to warm a chilled body or quench a thirst. And sweetened coffee drinks like cappuccino are icky!

Posted by
752 posts

Me too! I Love when I'm all alone in a B and B in a small town in Italy's countryside. I buy coffee at the corner store, i buy one can regular and one can cereal (decaf) coffee so i can make half caff, then i search the cupboards for the Espresso coffee maker, light the burners the old-fashioned way, and i drink the whole frickin' pot!

Orzo is the name of the decaf coffee i buy in Italy! Really Good!

Posted by
6211 posts

Cappuccinos are not sweet unless one puts sugar in - it's just a straight espresso, foam, and hot milk. There is no sugar added in (I wouldn't add it either). Drip coffee is made completely differently than espresso so it's like comparing apples and oranges, it's just a preference thing. Whether you like coffee in Italy or not, there is no question they make it properly whatever the style you're looking for (it will be smaller in volume though). Most coffee shops in the US (there are exceptions of course) don't even know how to make an espresso...most of the time, it has no crema on top, it's just totally flat (and burned at Starbucks).

Posted by
11613 posts

I am with Agnes on the sugar issue, I find the milk sweet enough so I don't add sugar to a cappuccino (or any other coffee).

And "proper" coffee in one country is swill in another, so "proper" is a local or regional designation (I think Tom was a bit tongue-in-cheek there).

Posted by
23728 posts

Italians (and many Swiss in Ticino) like their espresso very very sweet.

A few famous coffee shops in Rome add a lot of sugar automatically when they make it (and extra special ingredients sometimes). Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè - my favourite - does that, so if you don't want sugar there make sure they know...

Posted by
752 posts

Thanks Nigel for that information. For awhile there i dreaded going to a bar for coffee. I just kept looking and found bars that didn't care where i came from, they treated me good, didn't overcharge me, just gave me the coffee, i return time and again.

My funnest memory is the young gal at the cafe/deli at Napoli Centrale Stazione who, when i asked for an American cup of coffee, took out a huge cup and poured in the entire contents of her espresso pot. Never said a word, never looked at me, no fuss, i had to dilute it quite a bit with milk and creamers, but i was happy!

Others who see me everyday change their routine, that guy on the Adriatic beach at Porto San Giorgio waits for me and then goes to the market after I'm served.

Posted by
3826 posts

My husband is one of those who likes his regular old coffee with cream/milk and sugar, as is my mother. He doesn't want espresso or cappuccino or any other fancy dang caffeinated drink. He wants his drip coffee. He was never so happy to see a McD's in Rome and Starbucks in Paris so he could get his plain old coffee. Even asking for it Americano style wasn't quite right for him. (I don't do coffee or any coffee based drink...ick). My mom took some small packages of instant coffee so she could get her fix in the morning. Whatever floats your boat!

Posted by
2773 posts

Once I had a syrupy sweet cappuccino so have avoided them since, perhaps unfairly. It's all a bit fussy for me anyway.

Has anyone else run into those coffee machines in breakfast rooms in the UK? My routine was expresso, double, then hot water to fill the cup. A bit of effort but it worked.

Posted by
6211 posts

Once I had a syrupy sweet cappuccino

Are you sure it wasn't a Frappuccino or Mochaccino or some other made up concoction you see at Starbucks? Those are coffee drinks but don't really resemble what you'd get in Italy...they're laced with sweetness because the target audience seems to prefer sweet and weak. I've not had sweetened coffee anywhere in Europe that was geared toward locals (Cafe Americanos wouldn't even exist if non-local preferences weren't involved). If you have a straight up cappuccino, it's not fancy (unless you consider frothed milk to be fancy) or has any crazy ingredients. (PS. I drink drip coffee at home and have nothing against it at all. Too lazy to clean and keep up an espresso machine).

Espresso has no "x"...maybe in the UK? If you're making a double and then pouring hot water on top, then that's what essentially an Americano is.