Un caffè, per favore



Italian coffee is a serious thing.

Every morning you can smell a strong scent of coffee, along all Italian streets of every town, even the smallest one.  

Coffee is not simply a drink but a ritual that Italians cannot miss. Every morning must start with an “espresso” or “macchiato” for most Italians, otherwise it would not start with the right foot.

Totally different from other types of coffee drunk abroad, Italians find it sometimes very difficult to swallow foreign coffee not because they want to be choosy but simply because they are used to something different. This is also the reason why in Italy it is hard to find famous international coffee chains such as Starbucks. Italian young generations might want to drink some exotic varieties of coffee such as “frappuccino”, but old generations love drinking their tazzina di caffe’ (little cup of coffee).

The length of coffee is not the only thing that makes it different; the blend but especially the water gives it a different touch- some Neapolitans would say this, boasting the coffee made in their town .

Apart from cafés, coffee is served in almost every house and some of them still follow the tradition of the moka.

The old caffettiera [kaffetˈtjɛra], coffee maker in English, is still used by some families keeping ancient methods taught by their grandparents and passed from generations to generations. It is made up of two metal containers one over the other and separated from a filter containing coffee. When water is boiling in the lower container, it passes through ground coffee and takes all the savour and essences. 

Coffee is an unavoidable habit after meals, a kind of daily ritual, while university students would say that thanks to it they manage to stay awake and study, especially at night, maybe with a cup of Americano.

However, one of the most widespread reasons for drinking a cup of coffee in Italy is certainly socialization. “Andiamo a prenderci un caffè” (let’s have a coffee), or “ti offro un caffè “, (I’ll offer you a cup of coffee) are sentences you will often hear uttering from Italian people. No matter the time, no matter the day, it is always the right pretext to spend some time together with friends and drink something.



All Italians are very strict when it comes to coffee.

First, if you want to act like real Italian people, once you get into a bar head towards the counter – only tourists sit down and wait for table service – say “ciao” or “buon giorno” and ask for your caffè. 

Please, don’t say “un espresso per favore”. We never call a coffee “espresso”.

We simply order “a coffee”, which is usually the one served in a tiny cup.

The barista knows what you are talking about!





Variations on this basic drink are:

  • the ristretto, (restricted coffee), which has less water and is even more strong than a classic caffe’, 
  •  the lungo, which is served in the same tiny cup of the espresso, but it is diluted,
  • the Deca (decaffeinated),
  • the Americano. (well….needless to say!)




If you ask just for a latte, Italian barmen will probably serve you a “latte macchiato” which is a large, tall, glass of milk with a small quantity of coffee. The correct way of ordering coffee (espresso) with milk is to request a caffè macchiato. If you only want a little foam of milk on top, you ask for “caffè schiumato”.

I know, it’s a hard issue, but you are in Italy after all!

Last but not least: if you like your coffee reinforced with something a little harder, then the “caffè corretto” is the way to go. This is served with a small measure of liquor such as grappa, cognac, Irish cream or amaretto.

So, which one is your favorite?