Every Italian worth their Gucci loafers has the same morning ritual: heading to il bar for coffee. Whether it’s a quick espresso or a frothy cappuccino, coffee is treated with deep reverence in Italy, and the rules for ordering and drinking it are hard, fast and unyielding.
If you want to blend in with the locals, consider the following tips.
Order at the till
When you enter a bar in Rome, don’t bother standing at the counter trying to flag down the barista – you’ll be met with a quizzical look and sent to the cassa (till). In busy bars, it is standard practice to pay in advance at the till. The cashier will give you a receipt, which you must then hand to the barista when you place your order.
It’s just caffè
In Italy, coffee is a singular concept, so when you order un caffè, you will receive an espresso. You won’t be asked if it should be a single or a double, or if you want milk in it. A caffè is one shot, usually quite concentrated and bearing a thin, creamy layer of foam on top.
Drink your coffee at the counter
Italians drink their coffee quickly and with little ceremony. It is called an espresso, after all, which is the Italian word for “fast”. Stand at the counter to enjoy your coffee like a local – and to save yourself a few euros. In some places, especially those in the vicinity of popular sights, you can pay up to twice as much for the privilege of sitting down.
Don’t order a cappuccino after a meal
This is a rule that has been upheld by Italians for generations. A cappuccino is strictly a morning drink, and anyone who orders one after noon betrays their tourist status. Italians believe that the milk in a cappuccino will slow down your digestion, which is why they are eternally perplexed when foreigners order one after a meal.