Coffee in Italy is a form of art; it’s something that brings people together and allows for a moment of repose. It’s a beautiful thing really, the way it connects people of all ages, lifestyles, incomes, and ethnicities. It’s a moment of absolute and unbinding pleasure that fills our palette with a smoothness only found through that first sip of coffee in the early morning.
But what about when you make your way to Italy and realize you have no idea how to get that daily fix of liquid gold? Ordering coffee in Italy is different than it is in say, the United States. It’s not as easy as making your way through the Starbucks line and running off to work, drip coffee in hand.
I got together with a couple of my favorite local baristas in town and got a list together of all the most common coffees you’ll come across here in Italy. There are tons of variations, but it’s pretty straightforward. So here it is, how to order coffee in Italy:
How to Order
- I would like– Vorrei (vohr-ray)
- Thank you– Grazie (grah-zee-aye)
- Please– Per favore (pear fa-vor-eh)
- How much do I owe?– Quant’è? (quant-eh) *Note- used after consumption*
- How much does it cost?– Quanto costa? (quant-oh coh-stah) *Note- used when asking about price before consumption*
- A glass of water– Un bicchiere d’acqua (oohn bee-key-air-aye dee ak-kwa)
- Where can I pay?– Dove posso pagare? (doh-vay poh-sow puh-gah-ray)
- Should I pay or order first?– Dovrei pagare o ordinare prima? (doh-vray puh-gah-ray oh oar-dee-nar-aye pree-mah) *Note- at most bars/coffee shops you can order and then pay, but at some bars/coffee shops you must pay, get a receipt from the cashier, and then show that to the barista*
- Decaf- decaffeinato (dee-calf-fee-not-toe)
- Sugar– zucchero (zoo-keh-row)
(Psssst! If you need some more guidance with your Italian, check out our Italian for travelers guide!)
What to Order
While there are almost infinite options, there are a few options for your coffee order that are most common. These will be the coffee drinks that you’ll see most often and can NAIL when ordering!
1. Un caffè (calf-fay)
This is quite literally just a shot of espresso with nothing else in it. This is probably the most common coffee drink in Italy. You can order it by simply saying, “Un caffè, per favore.”
1. Un caffè doppio (calf-fay doh-pee-oh)
This is a double shot espresso! Benefits include: more energy for your day of exploring because more caffeine is usually better than less caffeine.
2. Un cappuccino (cap-pooch-chee-no)
An Italian cappuccino is much different than an American cappuccino. It’s usually served in a small glass with espresso, steamed milk, and some milk foam on top. If you’re in southern Italy you might hear the term “cappuccio”, but just order it as a “cappuccino” and you’ll be fine! It’s also important to note that Italians don’t cappuccinos past noon time, so don’t be surprised if the barista looks a little funny at you when you do. But don’t let that stop you… you do you, girl!
3. Un ginseng (gin-sang)
Gingseng technically isn’t a coffee. It’s actually a root that’s used to make this hot, sweet drink as a coffee substitute (although has a bit of coffee in it). It also still has caffeine in it, sorry decaffers!
4. Orzo (oar-zoh)
Orzo is another one of those funny coffee-ish drinks that isn’t actually coffee. Orzo is the Italian word for barley, so surprise! This drink is made from barley. It’s a caffeine-free coffee substitute that is quite the popular drink among Italians of all ages. It’s similar in quantity to the amount you get with espresso, perhaps just a tad more!
5. Un macchiato (mah-key-auto)
A macchiato is a shot of espresso with a dollop of milk on top. Depending on how busy your barista is, it’ll either be steamed milk, foamed milk, or a mix of both. It’s just luck of the draw, honestly.
6. Un caffè shakerato (calf-fay shah-keh-rah-toe)
A caffè shakerato is a fancy little drink that is usually served in some kind of clear glass, either a martini glass or a wine glass. Some bars/ coffee shops get fancy with it but in its basic form, it is espresso shaken with ice and simply syrup (like how they make cocktails!) to create a sweet coffee drink with foam on top.
7. Un caffè americano (calf-fay ah-mer-ee-cah-no)
This is the closest you’ll get to drip coffee in Italy. It consists of espresso and hot water, much like the americano you’d get back home! Usually, there is less water though. Italians like their coffee stroooong!
8. Un caffè latte (calf-fay)
This is similar to the “latte” that you’d get in the United States but half the size. As a side note, “latte” actually means “milk” in Italian, so if you just order a “latte”, expect a cold glass of milk.
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