google-site-verification: google3f3736d98883db6a.html How to order coffee in Italy
  • Gary

How to order coffee in Italy

Updated: Dec 23, 2019

A morning in Italy without coffee is unthinkable, as I'm sure you would agree....

Lex enjoying coffee in Venice

Join us on our Best of Italy small group tour of Italy and we'll take you to La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D'oro for one of those great cups of coffee!

Find out more on our website at or send us an email at

Rome’s Piazza della Rotonda fills daily with an endless stream of camera-carrying tourists eager to be dazzled by the two-thousand year-old concrete-domed Roman Pantheon. It’s a magnificent open space, busy and buzzing into the early hours with sightseers and locals mingling to the sounds of buskers or reclining at a table outside one of the many ristorantes that line the square. Anyone taking a tour of Italy has to visit. And if you complete a loop of the piazza, in one little corner you will find La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D'oro: our favourite place for coffee in Rome.

Now before the debate starts, I’ll concede that there are plenty of places to get a good coffee in Rome – but Tazza D’oro does it for us.

And every day that we are lucky enough to find ourselves in the Eternal City, we will make our way through the winding cobblestoned lanes of the old centre to join the locals for our morning brew - usually at the bar - or we might get to sit on of the two small wooden benches by the door and watch the locals as they sip their espresso and try to follow their rapid-fire banter with the baristas.

If the good bride says OK, I might even buy one of the delicious pastries stacked in piles behind the glass panel of the bar – un cornetto con crema - filled with custard that is warm and not too sweet as it explodes through the crispy layers of flake pastry. Lex always takes a bite and then denies she’s had any but we both know the truth.

Coffee is one of those things I think of whenever Italy comes to mind. It wasn’t invented there but Italians sure have adopted and adapted it, and no day in Italy seems right unless there is coffee involved somewhere - and usually the earlier the better.

As I have suggested, Tazza D’oro aside, there are any number of places to get a good coffee in Rome or wherever you travel across the boot (we’ve had great coffee served in plastic cups at an Italian petrol station on an off road - but we’ve also had less than memorable coffee experiences in Italy), so today I will share some of the lessons we have learned in the hope that you can avoid these and that your Italian coffee adventures are as they should be.

Lesson 1: Where to buy your coffee

Our first rule is to avoid a café on a busy piazza or tourist street. It’s not guaranteed, but generally our worst experiences have been in the places most frequented by tourists. I guess having lots of clients who aren’t likely to ever return doesn’t encourage a focus on quality. (I know Tazza D’oro breaks this rule, but it is an exception… and in their defence, they don’t have the tables laid outside that seem to attract the leg-weary tourist, and the vast majority of clients when we’ve been there have been locals.)

To find a good coffee shop when in a new town or neighbourhood, my simple strategy is to wake early and go for a walk. I don’t mean ridiculously early – rather when the local workers are starting their day. Maybe 6:30-7:00am. It’s usually a good time to take a few photographs: the light is not too bright and there are far fewer people around. And as I wander I keep an eye out for the café where the street workers, police, etc are heading to for their morning coffee. Often it’s a street back from where you might expect it.

And one further thing: the place you are looking for might not be called a ‘Café’. What we call coffee shops or cafes in Australia are generally called ‘bars’ in Italy.

Italian coffee does it for us!

Lesson 2: Types of coffee

In Australia, Lex prefers a café latte, but in Italy ‘latte’ just means “milk.” If you order a latte in Italy, you’ll likely get an odd look and a glass of cold milk. My Australian preference is for a flat white (honestly, I think the difference between that and a latte are the glass or cup it’s served in, but maybe that’s just me). Neither of us go for a cappuccino in Australian as it is usually served with a layer of chocolate powder across the top, which is just too sweet for us.

In Italy, however, the cappuccino is our drink of choice. It’s usually roughly 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foam – no chocolate. If you find this has too much milk, you might prefer a macchiato, which comes from the Italian word for “stained”; so this is essentially a shot of espresso “stained” with a little hot milk. The closest thing to an Australian cappuccino is a marocchino or espressino, which is a shot of espresso, a sprinkle of cacao powder, and a layer of foamed milk, but you won’t find it on the menu everywhere in Italy.

The traditional Italian coffee is an espresso – in Australia usually called a short black. If that’s your preference – and for many it is – you can simply order “un caffè”. A caffè ristretto is essentially a single shot of espresso with less water than a traditional shot. So it’s the same amount of coffee with less water passing through it, making the flavor much more concentrated. This can also be called a caffè stretto.

If you like a long black in Australia, you can choose between a caffè Americano (an espresso that’s been watered down a bit and it’s served in a bigger cup than an espresso) or a lungo (this literally means “long,” and this drink is partway between a caffè Americano and a regular Italian caffè - it’s got more water in it than a caffè, but it’s water that’s been run through the same coffee grounds rather than just hot water added afterwards).

If it’s hot outside and you want an iced coffee, it can be difficult to find but more and more places are putting it on the menu nowadays. A caffe freddo means "cold coffee", and this is usually an espresso that’s been either left out to cool down or actually put in the fridge to speed the process. It’s served cold or cool. A granita is a cold drink made in many flavours. Tazza D’oro does a granita di caffè which is almost frozen and filled with cream and ice cream and is ridiculously decadent, but if you are there on a hot summer day give one a go.

A caffe corretto is a great after-dinner treat. It’s a shot of espresso with a shot of liquor (corretto means corrected), commonly grappa, Baileys, or Sambuca; but if the restaurant you’re in has a full bar you can probably have just about anything added that you’d like.

If you have a sweet tooth, ask for zucchero - the Italian word for “sugar”.

Lesson 3: Ordering your coffee

Whilst in some places you will order your coffee and drink it then pay at the end of your visit, usually in Italy you will need to first pay for your coffee at the cassa then take your receipt (or scontrino) to the bar for service. Sometimes this can mean you need to do a little back and forth wandering first, especially if you are thinking about having something to eat (like those crispy cornettos calling your name at the counter).

Usually when you’ve paid at the cassa, you go and hold up your scontrino at the bar and a barista will come, take your order and the scontrino as well.

Generally you will pay more to sit at a table to have your coffee and you will see most locals just stand at the bar. If you are happy with that, make sure that when you are ordering you add al bar (at the bar).

So many choices for coffee in italy!

A few other things…

Unless they are having a meeting of some kind, Italians don’t take a long time over their coffee, nor do they do ‘takeaway’ (Although more do so nowadays, it remains relatively rare for a café to offer takeaway coffee... although don't get me started on the opening of Starbucks in a few places...). Italian coffee comes in small quantities, and they usually stop at the bar en route to work or wherever for a quick shot and usually don’t even sit down for it.

Stopping for a coffee at other points during the day is normal and accepted, and because the quantity is still small, you’re not really at risk of being up all night from a 2pm shot.

There is a belief amongst many Italians that you shouldn’t drink cappuccino after 11am. This comes from the belief that drinking milk after a meal affects your digestion. Usually Italians won’t order a cappuccino after a meal, no matter what time of day it is.

Whatever coffee you prefer, we think there are few better ways to start the day in Italy than your favourite brew, especially if it's with the one you love....

Join us on our Best of Italy small group tour of Italy and we'll take you to La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D'oro for one of those great cups of coffee!

Find out more on our website at or send us an email at

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