What to Expect from Visiting a Bar in Italy and Popular Coffee Drinks

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.

Bar in Bari, Puglia Italy

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.

At the Italian Cafe - Rome Italy

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!

Cappuccino at a cafe in Rome

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? 

  • User Gravatar
    January 2nd, 2014

    Great post about Italy.Definitely I’ll visit Italian coffee bars if I’ll go there.Happy new year!!

    Thanks Juliet! Happy New Year to you as well.
    Juliet recently posted..Bharatpur- A Paradise for the Siberian CranesMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    January 2nd, 2014

    Great tutorial Robin! I am sharing with my friends who will be coming to visit us in Italy in a few months. One thing to add….in the states we order a Latte-this will get you a glass of milk in Italy! Also, much to my displeasure, they use whole milk to make Lattes and Cappuccinos-taste great but can add inches if you drink too many!!

    Thanks Denise! I tend not to worry so much about calories in Italy – most times you do so much walking, you’ll burn it off so go ahead an indulge! ;)

  • User Gravatar
    January 3rd, 2014

    Ah, the art of coffee – how I miss Italian brew! Thanks for the review! I will share with my group I’m taking in April and dream about it until then!

    My pleasure! In the meantime, I’m sure you’ve got a good local spot that will have to do until you return ;)
    Victoria recently posted..Today’s Travel TidBitZ: Happy RE-New Year!!My Profile

  • User Gravatar
    January 3rd, 2014

    “Clear as a carafe of four-day old Maxwell House” hahaha love that

    Thanks Candice ;) Also, ew, right?!

  • User Gravatar
    January 4th, 2014

    I don’t know what it is, but the coffee and the bread taste so much better in Italy. Good article that makes me long to go back to my favorite vacation country.

    Also, I agree about not worrying about calories in Italy. When I go there, I eat everything, drink a lot of wine and always lose weight. Lots of walking and the food is so well made and rarely has any preservatives and additives like you find in the US.

    I agree with you on all counts Annie. It’s easy to eat well and still lose weight there ;)

  • User Gravatar
    January 5th, 2014

    I’m Italian and I smile as I read your post.
    Italians do not actually realize how some habits may be strange for foreigners.
    My favorite coffe is “Marocchino”, an espresso ‘stained’ with a little milk and addition of chocolate, or better yet, Nutella!


    Oh, espresso with Nutella. I have a new drink to order in Italy now, thanks Mr. Loto!

  • User Gravatar
    January 6th, 2014

    I can’t believe that it’s more expensive to sit outside and have coffee in Italy! Thanks for such lovely insights on my favorite beverage.

    That’s not the case at every bar Renuka, but it’s prevalent enough that I include it as a warning, so there are no surprises ;)
    Renuka recently posted..Nandi Hills – Beyond The SunsetMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    January 9th, 2014

    Lovely intro to Italian bars! I’ve known a few bar owners in Italy and loved hearing their interesting stories about travelers they’ve met.

    Oh and I BET they have SOME stories to tell Sonya ;)
    Sonya recently posted..10 Hotel Blogs You’ll LoveMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    January 11th, 2014

    Great – and helpful – post. Can’t wait to be sipping a latte in Rome this summer! Although… that Marocchino is calling my name. Thanks for the tip, Mr. Loto!

    If you’ll be in Rome this summer Rob, make sure you indulge in a shakerato to take the edge off that heat!
    RobRob recently posted..Ono Grinds – Three Things to Eat in HawaiiMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    January 16th, 2014

    Italy i am coming back to stay longer …. love u

  • User Gravatar
    September 29th, 2014

    I love the coffee over there. There is nothing like relaxing and people watching in the piazza.

    Two of my favorite things as well Jen ;)

  • User Gravatar
    October 30th, 2015

    One of my favorite Italian pastimes Robin! Do you think Mr. Lotto’ s Marocchino is an acceptable afrwenoon drink since it has milk in it. I do drink espresso in the afternoon at home but I need to add a touch of milk!!

    Grazie for your fun and imformative posts, Denise

    I say, drink what you like – go for it! And it’s always my pleasure to share Denise ;)

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