So you think you’re something of a coffee buff? You know your cappuccino from your latte and your espresso from your macchiato. But unless you know at what time of day to consume each type of beverage, how to order and the way to drink it, that won’t get you very far in Italy.

You see, the Italians take their coffee very seriously and have a carefully choreographed dance surrounding its etiquette. Woe betide anyone who tries to challenge these subtle, yet entrenched rules. So if you’re planning a holiday to Italy any time soon, you’d better take this opportunity on International Coffee Day to learn how to do coffee the Italian way.

No milk after midday

It doesn’t matter if you find it hard to stomach a cup of Arabica without lashings of milk and sugar, a cappuccino is never consumed in the afternoon. Neither is a latter or macchiato for that matter, so learn to drink your coffee black after midday. It’s a bit like ordering a bowl of cornflakes for dinner – it’s simply not done.

Do not try to gild the lily

Coffee is perfect within its own right and therefore cannot be improved upon. This means no amount of flavoured syrups, spices or other embellishments will make it better. In fact, Italians believe that such additions simply detract from the true taste of coffee.

Know when to break the rules

There are actually two occasions when breaking the rule above will show your true coffee credentials to Italians, but they are location specific. In Naples and nowhere else, you can order an espresso topped with hazelnut cream, known as un caffe alla nocciola. Alternatively, in Milan you may wish to plump for un marocchino. This concoction of cappuccino served in a cocoa powder-covered glass, with frothed milk and an extra shot of espresso is so un-Italian, only the Milanese could get away with it.

Know the lingo

It’s not just about what you drink, but also how you order it. Here’s a cheat sheet to get you underway:
· Un caffe – a single shot of espresso

· Un caffe doppio – a double espresso

· Caffe lungo – a bigger shot of espresso with more water, making it slightly weaker

· Caffe corto – a smaller shot of espresso with less water, making it stronger

· Caffe freddo – a cold espresso, usually served in a shot glass and great for hot days

· Caffe con panna – a shot of espresso with whipped cream

· Cappuccino – one third espresso, one third milk and a third foam

· Caffe macchiato caldo – a shot of espresso with a dash of steamed milk

· Caffe macchiato freddo – a shot of espresso with a dash of cold milk

· Latte macchiato – a large glass of frothed milk with a shot of espresso poured in

· Caffe corretto – a shot of espresso with a shot of liqueur

Order with confidence

Now you know what to say, be sure to go up to the bar, say your preferred choice of coffee loudly, even if the server hasn’t turned to address you yet. Yep, that’s how the Italians do it. Once you’ve received it, most coffees tend to be drunk standing at the bar.

Do not go large

Italians love coffee, but prefer it in small doses, as opposed to the large sizes that require two handles to reach our mouths. This means stopping for coffee regularly and limiting yourself to a little cup each time.

Never ask for a coffee to go

We may have embraced coffee on the go as part of our hectic lifestyles, but this is absolute heresy in Italy. Coffee is as much a ritual as a way to get a boost of energy and should be enjoyed in the establishment where it is bought. Italian coffees also tend to be relatively small, so even if you don’t linger, there should be no reason to take it with you.


Having started her travelling career at the age of five on a trip to Africa with her family, Emma has gone on to visit more than 45 countries across the globe. Highlights have included taking part in a tango lesson in Argentina, seeing Victoria Falls from both sides and getting lost among the streets of the Albaicin in Granada.


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