Coffee is so much a part of Italian culture that the idea of not drinking it is as foreign as the idea of having to explain its rules. These rules are set in stone and not always easy for outsiders to understand. Italians invented coffee culture, they were the first in Europe to open a coffee house, the first one was in Venice in 1629, the espresso machine was invented in Turin in 1884. On a light note before you travel to Italy below are the 10 rules you should follow when in Italy.
1 MILK IN THE MORNING
You should only drink cappuccino, caffé latte, latte macchiato or any milky form of coffee in the morning, and never after a meal. Italians cringe at the idea of having a milky coffee after a meal.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE
You should not muck around with coffee. Asking for a mint frappuccino in Italy is like asking for a single malt whisky and lemonade with a swizzle stick in a Scottish pub. There are two regional exceptions to this rule, . In Naples you can order un caffè alla nocciola – a frothy espresso with hazelnut cream. In Milan you can impress the locals by asking for un marocchino, a sort of upside-down cappuccino, served in a small glass which is first sprinkled with cocoa powder, then hit with a blob of frothed milk, then spiked with a shot of espresso.
3 NEVER SAY ESPRESSO
You do not use the word espresso. This a technical term in Italian, not one that is used everyday. A single espresso is simply known as un caffè.
4 DOUBLE TROUBLE
You can order un caffè doppio (a double espresso) if you want to, but be aware that this is not the normal practice of Italians. Italians do drink a lot of coffee, but they do so in small, steady doses.
5. SAY IT LOUD
Head confidently for the bar, call out your coffee order even if the barista has his back to you, and pay afterwards at the till.
If it's an airport or station bar or a tourist place where the barista shouts "ticket" at you need to pay at the till first.
7 STANDING ONLY
You do not sit down to drink your coffee. In Itlay Coffee is downed in one, standing.
8 SOME LIKE IT HOT
You should expect your coffee to arrive at a temperature at which it can be downed immediately. If you prefer really hot coffee that burns your lips and tongue or blowing the froth off your cappuccino in a vain attempt to cool it down then ask for un caffè bollente.
9 THE PERMITTED DRINKS
You are allowed the following variations, and these only, cappuccino and caffé latte: caffè macchiato or latte macchiato – an espresso with a dash of milk or a hot milk with a dash of coffee (remember, mornings only); caffè corretto: the Italian builder's early morning pick-me-up, an espresso "corrected" with a slug of brandy or grappa; and caffè freddo or cappuccino freddo (iced espresso or cappuccino). You can also ask for un caffè lungo or un caffè ristretto if you want more or less water in your espresso.
10 THAT IS ALL Do not believe anything else you hear.