When traveling to Italy, one of the most pleasurable ways to soak up the Italian culture is by spending time at a bar, either inside or at a table outside on the terrace. In Italy, a cafe is usually called a bar, which should not be confused with the American version of a bar, and it’s a regular part of life for Italians.
To make matters a bit more confusing, a caffè isn’t what you call a bar, but you’ll see the word caffè in the names of some bars – like Antico Caffè de Brasile. It’s also what you order if you want a shot of espresso – un caffè.
Yeah, I know, clear as a carafe of four-day old Maxwell House. Don’t worry, just keeping pounding shots – you’ll be so amped-up and focused on getting your next caffeine fix, none of this will matter.
Since it helps to be armed in advance about what to know when visiting a bar in Italy, here are some things to take note of. As a bonus, because this post is focused on drinking coffee at the bar, I’ve included some definitions of popular Italian coffee drinks.
A few facts about Italian Bars
● Locals tend to belly up to the bar for their espresso, down it in a shot and run
● Cappuccino is only taken in the morning for breakfast, never after 12pm. Follow this rule if you want to blend in like a local and not pegged for a tourist
● Generally, standing at the bar inside is the least expensive option, followed by sitting inside; sitting outside is most expensive – and can often be double the cost. Sitting outside at the cafes in Venice can be very expensive, but worth it
● You will not be rushed to leave your seat. You can sip a beverage and spend hours relaxing, writing in your journal or filling out postcards without worry. Often you’ll have to ask the waiter for the check (il conto) and this is perfectly normal.
● If ordering at the bar, order and pay the cashier first, then go to the bartender, (barista) with your receipt in hand and order your drink
● When sitting outside, you’ll notice sometimes tables are set up with the chairs facing the street, instead of facing each other. It may seem a bit awkward, but this offers prime people watching real estate, so sit and watch life go by – it’s very entertaining!
A few types of Italian coffee beverages
- caffé – strong shot of espresso
- doppio – a double shot of espresso
- caffé ristretto – espresso with less water – stronger taste
- caffè lungo or americano- espresso diluted with more water- weaker taste
- caffè latte- shot of espresso with lots of warm milk
- caffè corretto – espresso ‘corrected’ with shot of liquor (sambuca, grappa are popular)
- cappuccino- equal parts espresso, steamed milk and milk foam
- caffè macchiato – espresso ‘stained’ with a little milk
- caffè freddo – ice coffee
- shakerato – a hot weather drink of espresso, sugar and ice, shaken until foamy
What’s your favorite Italian coffee beverage?