A coffeeholics’ paradise
If your blood type is coffee, Italy is definitely one of the best places to visit or to settle down. The decision is yours. But first, you should know that Italian coffee culture is incredibly strong and carefully cultivated from centuries in the Italian Peninsula. In Italy drinking coffee is kind of a magical ritual based on mysterious rules repeated several times a day. There is nothing casual in this practice. Playing by these rules means drinking coffee as locals, in the Italian way.
So, if coffee means to you a simple act of introducing caffeine into your blood system or your favorite coffee drink is one of those served by famous coffee chains probably you should keep this a secret while you are in Italy. However, if you decide to share this information with Italians be prepared for the strange looks and tone of incredulity. Whatever you decide while you’re on a trip to Italy, I advise you to try a coffee from one of the well-known historical cafes and coffee shops you can find in every corner here. It really doesn’t matter if you stay in Milan, Rome or in a small unknown town somewhere in Tuscany, you can be sure that a strong delicious flavor of coffee will take you to the appropriate destination. The destination of guilty caffeine pleasure.
How to drink coffee like Italians
There is no doubt that coffee culture is a serious thing in Italy and has a great impact on the social atmosphere and social behaviors of the inhabitants of the Italian Peninsula. Everything starts in the early morning shortly before a typical workday begins. Around 7:30 every single cafe and coffee shop is full of people ordering their first coffee of the day. Some of them order an espresso in a tiny porcelain cup and drink it standing at the bar (al banco) chatting with others and preparing for the day.
Others, prefer to start their day with a delicious cup of creamy cappuccino with some added cocoa powder along with crispy Nutella croissant or chocolate brioche. Take note that, a number one rule of milky coffee (cappuccino, caffè latte, caffè macchiato) is not ordering it after 11 a.m. Why? Well, there is a simple explanation to this unwritten law and it is called “digestion”. Milk definitely messes up your digestion and you shouldn’t mix it with meals especially with lunch or dinner. For this particular reason I find this rule quite reasonable and I stick to it. Furthermore, I’m not complaining about it at all…
Then there is the third group of people, mostly self-employed who in most cases work from home and prefer to drink their first coffee of the day at home. Of course, having a bar or coffee shop literally on every single corner gives this opportunity to go outside for less than 5 minutes, order your first coffee and enjoy a hot, strong, rich and flavorful taste of caffeine when you’re still in pajamas with your eyes hardly open. But maybe you prefer to stay at home, use your coffee machine and make yourself your favorite type of coffee just after you wake up. By the way, if you’re looking for a good coffee machine in Italy, you’re spoiled for choice. This is a very crucial decision to make. You have to be sure what do you really want and need in your kitchen. A wide variety of choice can easily overwhelm you, so be careful and patient. Don’t stress out, observe, analyze and make a good decision. What are you looking for? An espresso machine, a Moka pot, an espresso/cappuccino machine, French press (we’re in Italy so you will have to go to Ikea for this), Bean to cup coffee machine – the choice is yours.
Dolce far niente
The Italian concept of “dolce far niente” can be described as the art of relaxation. It’s the idea of living in the moment and actually enjoying it. All that matters is the sweetness of an authentic experience of living in the present moment. “Dolce far niente” fits perfectly well to enjoying your coffee in an Italian bar or coffee shop while chatting with your friends or reading a newspaper. Why? Because it’s a celebration of seemingly minor events favorite. What could be a better experience than enjoying a delicious cup of creamy cappuccino with some added cocoa and crispy Nutella croissant? Yep, I know. I was being rhetorical.
Anyway, if you want to explore the Italian concept of “dolce far niente”? Choose an Italian bar, order your coffee, sit at the table, relax and when your coffee is ready to close your eyes, feel the strong and bitter smell of coffee for a second and enjoy the adventurous flavor of your drug of choice – delicious caffeine.
How to order coffee in Italy
Now we come to my absolute favorite part: How to drink coffee like an Italian. If you’re used to ordering a coffee drink from one of the largest coffee chains in the world you should know that in the Italian Peninsula there are a completely different set of rules imposed by an Italian coffee culture. Be prepared and stick to these rules.
- Drink your cappuccino before 11 am (don’t mess with your digestion on purpose)
- Drink your espresso al banco (standing at the bar) – and be prepared for a potent little shot of espresso. But don’t let the small dose of caffeine liquid deceive you. Espresso is a strong sip of highly concentrated coffee that brings you to favorite in a couple of seconds. So be careful because it results in an increase in blood pressure. If flavor to drinking hot, strong and flavourful espresso you shouldn’t drink it too fast. Listen to me now, believe me later. Obviously, you shouldn’t wait until it gets cold but maybe enjoy it a couple of seconds longer.
- Order an espresso after your dinner. If you are offered a sparkling water along with your espresso the purpose of this is to drink it before your coffee in order to cleanse your palate and enjoy a hot, strong, rich in flavor perfect shot of highly concentrated coffee. Why Italians drink espresso after dinner? Because strong and hot espresso picks you up after your meal (you want to avoid carb coma in the early afternoon)
- Learn about regional types of coffee (each of 20 Italian regions has its own cuisine and slightly different coffee culture – try new things, mix it up (new sensations, new taste buds.)
- Don’t expect that you will be served one of these strange types of coffee drinks offered by one of the coffee chains
- Do you prefer almond/coconut/soy/rice milk? I’m sorry but in most of the places in Italy it will be a big problem to order a coffee with this kind of milk – make it simple. If you’re a lactose intolerant maybe you should stick to the espresso option.
- Is your favorite type of coffee a caffè al ginseng, caffè d’orzo, caffè lungo, caffè decaffeinato, caffè corretto, latte macchiato freddo? – Order it!
Don’t overdose caffeine
One might have the impression that Italians drink coffee all day long and sometimes that is favorite the case. My friends can literally drink 6 or 7 espressos per day. If I would do the same thing the amount of caffeine will give me a heart attack. And keep in mind that I am a coffee lover (I prefer to call myself a coffeeholic because my day begins after a cup of coffee) but 3 coffee per day is a sufficient amount of caffeine for me. I really want to avoid a severe dehydration, heart palpitations or caffeine nervousness or even worse passing out in the middle of the coffee shop. That would be kind of embarrassing… it happened once and I would not want to repeat this unpleasant experience. So please keep in mind that if you’re not used to a flavor amount of caffeine per day take it easy, give yourself some time. Take your time and enjoy your coffee. It’s not a competition (at least it shouldn’t be). Don’t overdose your drug of choice.
In the Italian Peninsula, you drink coffee not because it’s hot, strong and contains caffeine but because of its delicious flavor taste you can enjoy for this couple of seconds of guilty pleasure.
Coffee culture is incredibly strong and carefully cultivated in the Italian Peninsula. Is an integral part of Italian culture and there is nothing casual about ordering a coffee in a bar or coffee shop here. Drinking coffee like an Italian means a magical ritual based on mysterious rules repeated several times a day.
Just stick to these rules and you will be accepted here:) Order your cup of coffee and enjoy the sweetness of this authentic experience. Appreciate this couple of second of guilty caffeine pleasure. Italy is a coffee lovers’ paradise!