The first time I visited Italy, I ordered a latte at a cafe.

I was expecting an American-style latte made from espresso and steamed milk, but in Italian coffee shops, the word latte simply means milk.

So, I shouldn't have been surprised when the server presented me with a large glass of milk without coffee!

I immediately realized my mistake but was too embarrassed to admit I was wrong. After leaving the coffee shop, I began researching Italian coffee etiquette and the Italian language as a whole.

In this guide, I'll cover everything to know before ordering a coffee in Italy, providing tips and tricks to fully immerse yourself in Italian coffee culture without feeling like a tourist.

How To Order Coffee In Italy - Essential Vocabulary Tips!

Much of Italian culture is centered around drinking coffee.[1] Although many Americans are just as invested in coffee as Italians, it’s a much more simplistic affair in Italy.

Unless you’re visiting a large coffee chain like Starbucks, you won’t see tons of options for additives, flavors, syrups, or milk alternatives like oat or almond milk.

Italians like to keep things simple, and there are typically only a few options for additional ingredients, like sugar and milk.

If you’re on board with keeping things simple as you navigate the coffee traditions in Italy, here are a few essential vocabulary tips that will come in handy!

Ordering Black Coffee

Since the Italian word for coffee is caffè, just ask for un caffè if you want a standard shot of black espresso.

Don't forget to ask nicely by saying please, which would be "un caffè per favore.”

Ordering Coffee With Milk

The best way to order coffee with milk from the Italians is to ask for a caffè latte, but you can also ask for a latte macchiato.

With a caffè latte, you'll get what Americans know simply as a latte - a tall glass filled with espresso and steamed milk.

A latte macchiato is similar to a caffè latte, but it uses milk foam instead, and the milk-to-espresso ratio is greater.

The biggest difference between these two common milk drinks is that a caffe latte has milk added to espresso. In contrast, a latte macchiato has espresso added to milk.

If you're just starting your espresso journey, I suggest starting with a latte macchiato since it doesn't have the same coffee intensity as a caffè latte.

Ordering Iced Coffee

Iced coffee in Italy isn’t as common as hot coffee, but as long as you say the right thing, you’ll have no trouble finding a delicious iced coffee to sip.

The Italian word for ice is ghiaccio, so if you ask your barista for a caffè ghiaccio, you’ll be given just that - a coffee with ice.

In most cases, the barista will hand you a shot of espresso with a small glass of ice on the side. Simply pour the coffee over the ice, and voila, you have iced coffee!


When & Where Do Italians Usually Drink Their Coffee?

While there are a few rules on when to drink different types of coffee in Italy, coffee is consumed throughout the day, even after dinner.

Instead of heading to a cafe or coffee shop, locals here drink their coffee at an Italian bar. To Americans, a "bar" is an establishment for drinking beer or downing a shot of liquor.

To Italians, it's the perfect place for early morning caffeination or an afternoon coffee break.

An Italian bar opens early and operates all throughout the day. It's extremely common for these businesses to offer both coffee and alcoholic drinks.

Popping into one is the perfect way to get a quick shot of espresso in the morning or end the workday with an alcoholic spritz.

When ordering coffee, the Italian way is to stand at the bar. It's a quick and simple affair that doesn't involve sitting down. Simply walk to the bar, order your coffee, drink it, pay, and leave!

While in Italy, it's not likely that you'll be able to order your coffee to go. To-go cups aren't really a thing here, so unless you're at Starbucks, try to avoid asking for your coffee to go.


20 Different Types Of Italian Coffees To Enjoy

Now that we've covered the basics of how to order coffee in Italy let's get into the nitty-gritty details of different types of coffee drinks to try.

1. Caffè

In my opinion, a caffè is the best coffee to order in Italy. It’s a single shot of espresso, and it’s the foundation of every coffee in Italian culture.

When you order a caffè, it’s served in a small cup with no additives. It’s strong and flavorful, which is exactly what I look for when I drink coffee.

Because straight espresso can be hard on the stomach, I prefer to order mine with a side of sparkling water or acqua frizzante.

Most people just use this side of water to cleanse the palate, but I find that it dilutes the acidity and bitterness of the coffee.

2. Caffè Doppio

A caffè doppio is simply a double espresso, also commonly called a doppio espresso. 

No matter how you order your doppio coffee in Italian, you can expect to be given a double shot.

Ordering doppios isn't very common for Italians. Typically, an Italian would order a coffee or caffè, finish it, then order another if more caffeine is necessary.

Don't let that stop you from ordering a doppio, especially if you're in need of an energy boost and would rather not order two coffees.

3. Caffé Macchiato

Caffè macchiato is the perfect choice for anyone who wants espresso with a splash of milk.

The word macchiato literally translates to marked, so you can expect your caffè macchiato to be marked with a small amount of frothy warm milk.

4. Caffè Affogato

Caffè affogato, also called affogato al caffè, is essentially dessert in a cup.

It’s made by combining two famous ingredients from Italy: espresso and gelato.

Preparing this drink is easy; just place a scoop of vanilla gelato into a glass, then pull a shot of espresso directly over it.

The gelato will instantly melt, creating a creamy, sweet Italian caffè that no one can resist.

5. Caffè Con Panna

Another common dessert-like coffee is caffè con panna, a combination of coffee and whipped cream. 

It's not as decadent as caffè affogato, but it's still a great choice, especially for breakfast. 

6. Caffé Macchiatone

Macchiatone is a cross between a cappuccino and a macchiato.

Also called long coffee, this beverage is prepared in a large glass by combining espresso with frothy milk.

7. Caffè Al Ginseng

This next type of Italian coffee isn’t super common among locals, but you might be able to find an Italian bar that serves coffee this way because it’s super simple to make.

Caffè al ginseng is prepared by mixing espresso with ginseng extract. 

Ginseng is great for an added energy boost, and it also promotes healthy digestion.[2]

8. Caffè Americano

While the caffè Americano is the most American coffee on this list, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed ordering it.

Even though you won’t see many Italians sipping on an Americano, it still uses amazing Italian-style espresso as the main ingredient.

To make an Americano, a shot or two of espresso is diluted with hot water… that’s it! 

If you’re not used to potent espresso, drinking Americanos might be the best option for you.

9. Caffé Shakerato

The caffè shakerato is a cold coffee that’s been shaken with ice and sugar.

Some people prefer adding cold milk as well, but if the coffee is good - which all Italian coffee is - you shouldn’t need to dilute it with milk.

10. Caffè Corretto

Literally translated to coffee corrected, the caffè corretto is a spiked coffee typically made with grappa.

If you’re unfamiliar with grappa, give it a try before ordering a corretto; it’s a grape-based brandy that’s extremely high in alcohol, so you can expect to feel the effects after one or two of these!

11. Caffè Latte

The classic caffè latte is a personal favorite of mine, and it’s what Americans simply know as a latte.

This beverage is made with espresso and steamed milk, typically served in a large glass.

12. Cappuccino

Most people are familiar with the cappuccino.

It's made by cutting espresso with steamed milk and foam, and in Italy, it's served in a small mug rather than a tiny espresso cup.

Cappuccino coffee in Italian coffee is typically only enjoyed in the mornings because of its filling texture, but that shouldn’t stop you from ordering one in the afternoon if that’s what you’re craving!

13. Caffè Ristretto (Corto)

A caffè ristretto, also called a corto, is what Americans call a "short" coffee.

It's essentially an even smaller shot of espresso, which makes it extremely potent and dense.

This is an excellent choice if you want a quick shot of caffeine that can be taken in a single sip.

14. Caffè Lungo

A caffè lungo, which translates to long coffee, is exactly the opposite of a caffè corto.

It’s made by pulling a long espresso shot, and the little bit of added water volume from the extra pulling time means that it’s slightly milder than a standard shot.

A lungo isn’t quite as diluted as an Americano made with hot water, so if you want more flavor than what an Americano can give, this is the one for you.

15. Caffè Freddo

The word freddo means cold in the Italian language, so a caffè freddo is literally just a cold coffee.

In my opinion, it's more like a coffee milkshake - it's made by combining espresso, ice, milk, and sometimes sugar. It's similar to a frappe but typically not as sweet.

If you prefer to order a coffee that’s cold and refreshing, consider asking for a caffè freddo.

16. Caffè Marrochino

Caffè marrochino is a Moroccan-style coffee that has gained a lot of popularity among Italians.

It’s made by layering espresso, cocoa powder, and milk foam in a small glass. 

Thanks to the cocoa, it’s very similar to a mocha coffee.

17. Cioccolata Calda

If you’re not a huge fan of coffee, or even if you just need a break from caffeine, consider ordering a cioccolata calda.

This is simply a hot chocolate, but it could just be the best hot chocolate you’ve had in your life!

18. Caffè D'orzo

Caffè d'orzo, also called barley coffee, is a caffeine-free alternative to espresso.

It’s made from orzo, a roasted grain, and it’s made just like regular caffè.

This type of “coffee” was originally used by the Italians as a caffeine-free substitute for children, but it has become increasingly popular among adults, especially those who are trying to avoid caffeinated beverages.

19. Caffè Deca

Caffè deca, also called decaffeinato, is another option for anyone who has a low caffeine tolerance or just wants to avoid caffeine after dinner.

This is essentially just a shot of espresso made from decaf coffee beans.

20. Caffè Con Ghiaccio

Unlike iced American-style coffee, caffè ghiaccio is a coffee served alongside a glass of ice. 

It's up to you to pour the espresso over the ice. If you prefer an iced beverage that's already fully constructed, ask for a shakerato instead.


Essential Words You Might Hear From Italian Baristas

So far, I've learned a lot of words to describe coffee in Italy.

When ordering a cup of coffee, you can simply say "Un caffè per favore" or use a more well-rounded sentence with "Vorrei un caffè per favore," which translates to "I would like a coffee, please."

There are a few more phrases that you’re likely to hear from the barista making your Italian coffee drink, like:

  • “Un caffè normale?” - “A normal coffee?”
  •  “Come lo desidera?” - “How would you like it?”
  •  “Basta così?” - “Is that it?”
  • “Ecco a Lei.” - “Here you go.”
  •  “La vuole con panna?” - “Would you like it with whipped cream?”

Italian Coffee’s Rich Culture & History Explained

Italian coffee culture started in the 1500s with the first coffee served in Venice, and this province became one of the first European states to import coffee beans.

You'll even find the oldest coffee house in the world, Caffè Florian, still operating in Italy to this day.

Coffee culture and tradition continued to spread throughout Italy. By the 20th century, the country became the global leader in the commerce of coffee around the globe.

New innovations took the coffee world by storm, especially when Luigi Bezzera perfected the espresso-making process in 1901.

Even though coffee houses essentially disappeared during World War II, Italians took it upon themselves to start making delicious espresso at home.

Nowadays, most Italian households have a Moka Pot or even a commercial-grade espresso machine from Gaggia or DeLonghi.[3]

For Italians, drinking coffee is about more than simply staying caffeinated. It's a way of life and a means of connecting people.

There's nothing quite like connecting with an old friend over a delicious espresso, and Italians know that better than anyone!


Related Ordering Coffee In Italy Questions

Do you need to leave a tip when ordering coffee in Italy?

When you order coffee in Italy, leaving a tip is not expected, especially if you stand at the bar for a quick coffee on the go. However, tips are greatly appreciated, so feel free to leave an extra coin or two when you pay the bill.

Is coffee in Italy considered strong?

Yes, an Italian espresso shot is considered very strong, especially compared to American-style drip coffee. If you’re a coffee lover who prefers a weaker brew, try ordering a diluted espresso drink, like a caffè Americano.

What is Italy's most popular type of coffee?

Aside from a simple espresso shot, the most popular type of coffee in Italy is a cappuccino. Espresso is still the base ingredient of this beverage, but the addition of hot milk foam makes this a decadent drink that most Italians love.

When do Italians drink cappuccino?

Italians typically drink cappuccino in the morning, and many people say that it should not be ordered after 11 a.m. For this reason, a typical Italian breakfast is usually accompanied by a cappuccino.


Order Coffee Like An Italian Local!

Whether you’re exploring the streets of Turin or sunbathing on the beaches of Cinque Terre, you don’t have to master learning Italian to start ordering coffee like a pro.

As long as you learn the main phrases and understand how to order your favorite beverage, you might even be taken for a local!

No matter what you order, just remember to always be polite by saying please (per favore) and thank you (grazie).

References:

  1. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/07/14/535638587/italys-coffee-culture-brims-with-rituals-and-mysterious-rules
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92776/
  3. https://www.lavazzausa.com/en/recipes-and-coffee-hacks/italian-style-coffee-history-types-culture

Caitlin Shaffer

Author

Caitlin Shaffer
Caitlin Shaffer, is a knowledgeable coffee expert and passionate writer. Her articles are a mix of personal experiences, insights gained from her travels, and interviews, offering an extensive view of the global coffee scene. Caitlin enjoys embarking on new travel adventures, often to destinations celebrated for their unique coffee offerings, from Indonesia to Italy and Colombia, adding a worldly flavor to her articles. Her go-to coffee? Cold brew with homemade vanilla syrup – a personal favorite that keeps her love for coffee fresh and exciting.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... cold brew with homemade vanilla syrup.

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