How To Order Coffee In Italy

How To order Coffee In Italy

I thought about titling this post “the Beginner’s Guide To Coffee Culture In Italy”, because coffee is actually part of the culture in Italy. Standing at the bar in a coffee shop, knocking back an espresso (un caffe) is part of the social fabric in this very social country, and if you get the system and your order down, it adds to the magic of your experience in Italy.

The first thing to know is that coffee in Italy is nothing like Starbucks.

Drinks for the most part come in one size and are supposed to be consumed onsite. Stomping your foot and demanding a venti will get you exactly nowhere – venti means 20 in Italian. You will be served your drink in a real cup, not a paper cup. Italians don’t walk around eating and drinking in the streets like we do in the US. It’s fabulous.

The second thing to know is that there is a system that you need to follow.

When you walk into a café (coffee bar) check out the situation before walking up to the bar. I most big city places you will need to pay the cashier first. He will give you a receipt that you will take up to the bar to order with. In smaller coffee shops you can order and pay at the bar.

If you are going to eat something – a pastry, a biscotto, a sandwich for example you need to scope out whats behind the glass before you pay for your order. Have a look, decide what you want and then go tell it to the cashier. Normally everything in a given food category costs the same. Panini are equally priced, all the pastries are one price etc, but there can be variables, so it doesn’t hurt to check first.

Now with your receipt in hand, muscle up to the bar and get the barista’s attention. He or she will grab your receipt, ask you what you’re having, and then tear it so they know the order has been filled.

There are 2 prices for the coffee you are ordering. One is for having it standing at the bar and the other is for taking it to sit at a table. Italians drink their coffee standing at the bar.

It should be noted at this point that a coffee in Italy (un caffe ) is what we here in the states call a shot of espresso.

Related Post: How To Make Coffee In a Moka

What To Order

There is no equivalent in Italy to American drip coffee. You also won’t find Coffeemate or flavored coffee creamers. Italian coffee ruins you – it is so incredibly good. After a break in Italy it is near impossible to go back to drinking Starbucks.

The way to ask for your order is to say “un caffe per favore”. In a busy joint you can get away with just saying the name of the drink you want, but you probably will have to get the barista’s attention.

Un Caffe / a coffee.

coffee in Italy

A coffee is a shot of espresso. It will be served to you in a little cup on a saucer with a teaspoon for sugar. Normally they will also give you a small glass of water on the side.

coffee in Italy
Lunch in Marzamemi finishes with a coffee, or what we would call an espresso

Un Macchiato.

Macchiato
A macchiato at Tazza D’Oro in Rome

This is nothing like the huge sugary confection served stateside. It’s a shot of espresso stained (made macchiato) with a drop of milk. If you want the milk to be hot and foamed ask for Macchiato Caldo. This is still served in a little espresso cup.

Un Caffe Con Panna.

This is similar to a macchiato but is sweeter, and instead of milk is topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

Un Cappuccino (or Cappuccio).

cappuccino and panforte
Breakfast in Florence. A cappuccino and a slice of panforte

This is served in a bigger cup, but still not as large as an American tall. A cappuccino is a shot of espresso with foamed milk. Italians only drink this at breakfast time til mid morning. They cringe at the thought of milk sitting on a full stomach. Being that you probably are not his first tourist your barista will happily make you cappuccinos all day long.

Caffe Americano.

Caffe Americano
Caffe Americano at Gilli in Florence

This is the closest thing you will get to an American drip coffee. Sort of. It’s a shot of espresso with hot water added. It will still be much stronger than coffee at home.

This drink is strictly for the tourists – no Italian would be caught dead drinking it.

Un Lungo/Caffe Lungo.

You can ask for a caffe lungo (long) for a slightly weaker version.

Un Corretto or Caffe Corretto.

This is “corrected” coffee, said coffee being corrected with a shot of liquor. This could be grappa, brandy, Sambuca, Cognac or I’m sure anything that you would prefer.

Granita Al Caffe

Caffe Granita

Granita is a cold coffee that comes out of a slushy style machine. Its very creamy and smooth and delicious.

Coffee In Naples

I personally think Italian coffee is the best coffee in the world. In all my travels around the globe I have never had better coffee, or coffee that I have loved better, anywhere.

Kimbo Coffee In Naples
Kimbo is a brand of coffee I see more in Naples than anywhere else.

Within Italy the best coffee I have ever had has been in Naples. I make sure to allow coffee time every time I pass through, even if its just a quick espresso at the train station. But beware – coffee in Naples is strong!

Italians pop into a bar (café/coffee shop) multiple times per day. It’s a fun habit to take part in! If espresso seems too strong to start with just load it up with sugar. You will get the swing of it and develop a taste for it in no time, and before you know it you’ll either be drinking it straight or with just a little sugar before you know it.

I bring home between 5 and 10 pounds of Italian coffee every time I go to Italy. I buy Lavazza Crema E Gusto or Illy You can order both here on Amazon, but they cost a bit more, although they’re still not expensive.

Related Posts:

10 Things You Absolutely MUST Do In Florence

10 Things You Absolutely MUST Do In Rome

16 Luscious Italian Words And Phrases You need In Your Life



How To Order Coffee In Italy
How To Order Coffee in Italy

How To Get The Best Gelato In Italy

If you are traveling to Italy anytime soon (or ever!) there are 3 things you can pretty much guarantee you will eat at least one time while you are away.

Pasta. Pizza. Gelato.

Some people are lucky enough to have a digestive system and a metabolism that lets them run wild with all three, others of us have to be selective as to how many times we can indulge while away. Whether you fall into the once only category or the multi times per day group, you have to make every time count.

Today we are talking gelato, Italy’s answer to but 1000 x better than, ice cream.

lemon gelato in Capri Italy
Lemon gelato in Capri. Not to be missed!

So what’s so hard about ordering ice cream you say? Well, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.

It Starts With Where You Buy Gelato

This is in my opinion the most important factor when getting a gelato.

With tourism being so huge in Italy (it is one of the most visited countries in the world) gelato chains started popping up everywhere. Mass made, factory made ice cream with added color, added sugars, added God-only-knows-what. Chain store gelato doesn’t taste as good and can be so over sugared that it bites the back of your throat. As authentic as a Big Mac and with a provenance and nutritional value equally as questionable, these are not the places to buy gelato in Italy.

Their gelato either ships in frozen or is made from a packet. This is not the gelato you traveled across the world to eat!

Gelato franchises/chains are always scattered through the high tourist areas and are generally very close to major tourist attractions. If you have read my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) then you already know to avoid tourist trap eateries of any kind!

RELATED POST: HOW TO ORDER COFFEE IN ITALY

Always Buy Artiginale

Everywhere you go in Italy you can find fantastic, artisanal or artiginale gelato shops. These are owner operated stores where gelato is made freshly each day from fresh ingredients. The taste, texture and quality are superb. Think of it as chain store gelato being like eating Kentucky Fried Chicken versus artisanal gelato being like fine dining. Technically both will fill your belly but the experience is drastically different!

Buon Gusto artiginale gelato in Pienza Italy
Inside Buon Gusto gelateria in Pienza, Italy

Artisanal gelato flavors tend to be only what is in season. You won’t find strawberry year round.

Some artisanal shops only make a handful of flavors each day. In Pienza my friend Nicola’ from Buon Gusto makes only 6 flavors per day. When I take my Glam Italia Tour groups to Pienza I have learned to take them to his store when we first arrive, because we only spend a few hours in town and everyone always wants to go back for another gelato before we leave!

Explore the Flavor Profiles

Artiginale gelato shops offer some really fascinating flavor combinations. Don’t order the flavors you do at home – try something different! Look for things like raspberry and rosemary, peach and sage, figs and honey.

RELATED POST: HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN COFFEE IN A MOKA

They always offer samples so you can try before you buy. I find the more unusual the flavor combination (unusual to us, quite normal to them) the more amazing the gelato is. I always try anything with lavender, sage, basil or rosemary as they give such a fantastic flavor to gelato.

strawberry gelato italy
Gelato made with strawberries and basil.

On one of my tours one of the travelers tried orange,carrot and spinach gelato, the thought of which wasn’t overly enticing, but it was so incredibly good we all ended up going back and ordering one!

Gelato from Buon Gusto in Pienza
The one in back is the spinach and carrot gelato. As awful as it sounds it was actually sensational!

Mix It Up

Can’t decide which flavors to order? Try a scoop each of two or three!

Don’t be surprised if they refuse to pair the flavors you want or if they look at you funny. They get so invested in their creations and your taste experience is so important to them that sometimes they won’t want to put two flavors side by side.

gelateria Teatro, rome
white peach with sage and raspberry with rosemary gelato at Gelateria Teatro in Rome

One time in Sorrento a gelato guy refused to give me 2 flavors together. It was pretty funny! I couldn’t decide between the two so in the end he gave me 2 separate cups each with one flavor, then told me which one I was to eat first. He wasn’t being a jerk, it was because he didn’t want me thinking his gelato flavors were bad.

I go back every time I’m in Sorrento, which is multiple times per year, and now he just chooses two flavors that play nicely together for me. And I feel no guilt at having two scoops either, because the walk up the hill to the apartment I rent there is savage, so I’m convinced I burn it all off on the way home…

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How Can You Tell If It’s Artiginale?

Most artisanal or artiginale gelato shops will proudly post signs saying they are artiginale/artisanal. You can also just google artiginale gelato near me and get walking directions, invariably just around the corner from where you’re standing!

An easy way to tell if gelato is artisanal or not is to just look at it. Chain store/mass made/made from a packet gelatos tend to have punchy, bright colors, whereas artisanal gelato colors tend to be more dull.

artisanal pistachio gelato in Volterra, Italy
Real pistachio gelato will be a slightly dull shade of green

Gelato made with fresh strawberries will be a slightly dull pinkish hue, whereas mass market strawberry gelato will be bright pink. Another one to look for is pistachio, a flavor you will find year round. Artisanal pistachio gelato will be a dull, mossy or grey/green whereas mass market pistachio will be a vibrant green.

Have you read my books yet? Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) and Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things to Do in Rome: Beyond the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps are both available worldwide in paperback and on Kindle and the Kindle App. Both books are bestsellers and will change the way you experience travel in Italy!

Look For Locals

The best gelato shops are like the best little local eateries – heavily populated by Italians. Watch where they go, and buy your gelato there! Sometimes you will see long lines of people stretched out across the piazza waiting to buy gelato. At Dondoli Gelato in San Gimignano the lines get crazy long and sometimes stretch beyond the well in the middle of Piazza Cisterna, but the gelato is award winning and is definitely worth the wait. Funnily enough the café across from it also sells gelato and never has a line. Those in the know prefer to wait and have the good stuff.

This tends to be a really good sign, unless it is a bus tour and that’s where the tour guide told them to go. Bus tour groups are generally easy to spot though – if everyone in line looks like a tourist, this is not the place for you to be!

If you can’t spot a good gelato shop don’t worry – ask a local. There is always a good gelato shop close by.

Rail Europe (Americas)

Driving In Italy ~ 16 Super Important Things You Need To Know

Are you thinking about renting a car and driving while you are in Italy? Or maybe you are wondering if it is necessary to have a car while you are there?

As someone who rents cars in Italy several times per year, I can tell you there is nothing so freeing and fun as getting behind the wheel of a zippy little Italian car and racing through the hills of Tuscany, the olive lined roadways of Puglia or the lesser traveled parts of Lazio. With Italian music blasting, the wind blowing your hair while you glamorously look at the road ahead through an oversized pair of sunglasses – what could be more fabulous?

Fiat 500 convertible in Capri

I can also tell you the heart pounding stress that comes with your GPS dumping you into the heart of a busy city, backing up a long line of cars because you got in the telepass lane at the toll booth by mistake or finding yourself deep, deep inside the one way street labyrinth of the storico centro in a medieval town that was built for horses not cars – going the wrong way (all of which I have done) can ruin a trip or at least leave you a nervous wreck.

My book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) has an entire chapter on all the ins and outs you seriously need to know before renting a car and driving in Italy. If you are planning on driving there I sincerely recommend you read it before renting a car or getting behind the wheel in Italy.

1. Before You Rent A Car

First things first, let’s look at your trip and see if you even need to drive while you’re in Italy. Start by mapping your trip and seeing if a car is necessary. If your trip is primarily major cities, for example you are going to Rome, Florence and Venice then no you definitely do not need a car. If your trip is going to be spent exploring outside of the cities look to see whether the places you are going are on a train route.

So much of Italy has really fantastic train access that frequently not only do you not need a car, but a car would be slower and more expensive.

If your travel plans include aimlessly roaming the hill towns of Tuscany, or exploring Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria or Sicily, then a car is going to be essential.

RELATED POST: HOW TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT INTO ROME

2. Inside Italy’s Cities

You do not need a car inside the cities. In fact I emphatically recommend you do not get a car if you are inside the cities. Public transport is excellent, and in the big cities taxis are plentiful, so you can get anywhere you want to go quite easily.

Fiat driving tour in Florence
A Fiat driving tour rolled past us while we were lunching in Florence

On the other hand driving inside the cities can be treacherous, incredibly stressful and very expensive.

It is so easy to get lost and your GPS can be more of an enemy than a friend, especially inside old towns where the signal doesn’t always find you.

I was recently walking in Venice with some women who wanted to go to a specific restaurant that was at best a little wiggly to get to. Walking through the narrow calle the GPS would drop and a couple of times I had to take us back into an open campo to let the signal find my phone again. There was much eye-rolling and snorting from the peanut gallery who just didn’t get it that there wasn’t a consistent GPS signal.

This is just a nuisance when you are on foot, but when you are driving it can be really stressful and have you going down the wrong streets and getting into situations you cannot easily get back out of.

3. Parking

Parking inside the cities can be hard to come by. It almost always requires parallel parking super-proficiency, and the ability to not only parallel park in traffic, but with only an inch or two space at either end of the car.

There are parking buildings here and there but they can be very difficult to find and once inside the individual parking spaces are small and tight.

RELATED POST: DO YOU NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE?

4. ZTLs

ZTLs are very expensive traps for unsuspecting tourists. The Zona Traffico Limitato or Limited Traffic Zone is designed so that only cars with a special permit can go inside. These are normally, but not always, in the central heart of a city, as well as in small villages and towns.

Italy ZTL sign zona traffico limitato

Your GPS probably will not recognize a ZTL and will send you straight into the heart of it. With everything else that is going on chances are you won’t even see the warning sign. If you are on a one way street you can be inside the ZTL before you even realize it, or worse still you see it coming but have no way to get back out of it!

ZTLs are monitored with cameras that catch you the moment you cross into one. It will take months to arrive but suddenly you find yourself with a steep fine that nearly doubles if not paid within 60 days. You also get an “admin fee” from the rental car company, charged to your credit card.

In all likelihood it won’t just happen once – if you are not on top of it you can find yourself going in and out of ZTLs without realizing and find yourself with multiple fines. On an Italy travel forum that I was reading a traveler was fined over 2400 euros, a year after his Italy trip. He hadn’t known where all the ZTLs were and just drove in and out of them, somewhere near 24 times!

zona traffico limitato in Italy ZTL
You wouldn’t necessarily pick up on this sign if you were in Italian traffic with cars honking their horns at you as you try to figure your way with your GPS…

So even if your parallel parking skills are on point and you don’t get stressed easily, I sincerely recommend not driving inside the cities.

5. Discover New Towns And Villages

Having a rental car and driving around the countryside, discovering random little towns the tour buses don’t go to is one of my absolute favorite things to do in Italy.

The trick to it is to keep an open mind, decide ahead of time you won’t allow yourself to get stressed out, and then go have fun!

On my most recent trip to Italy I flew into Bari, picked up a rental car and then drove by myself across Puglia and Basilicata to get to La Rabatana

It was a beautiful and easy drive, except for one roundabout that had 5 exits, and that the GPS couldn’t decode. At various points I was going the wrong way, heading back to the airport, even driving through an olive grove! The only reason I made it to the correct exit from the roundabout was that the other 4 were wrong!

It was such a lovely drive though that I forgot to get stressed out. My feeling about driving around the countryside in Italy is so what if you get lost or go through some roundabout shenanigans – it’s all part of the fun. Getting lost just means discovering some incredible little town, and is actually how I have discovered most of my favorite secret places!

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

6. Map It Before You Go

Another good idea is to print out maps of your route before you drive off. You can’t rely on GPS alone, and having a backup little map showing you how to get from point A to point B at least will give you a concept of where you’re heading.

Also, should you lose cell service/have no data/lose Wi-Fi/run out of battery you will be glad you had a back up plan!

7. Look For City Names, Not Route Numbers

This comes back to the way they sign things in Italy. You’re not looking for the A1 when you leave Florence airport, you are looking for the A1 Roma or the A1 Bologna. Once you get on that highway it may give you a variety of different route numbers such as the E185, SS125 etc that can get really confusing, so think directionally and keep looking for the name of the town you are going to.

From Florence I take the A1 Roma to whichever roads are taking me to San Gimignano – I don’t get too involved with the route numbers, I just keep looking for the San Gimi signs, which is a much easier way to do it.

If your little town isn’t likely to have much signage, at least know which big towns are in that direction.

8. Roundabouts

Italian roundabout

If you don’t live somewhere that uses roundabouts they can be confusing. I grew up with them, so they are second nature to me, but if they are new or unfamiliar to you, here’s the deal:

Always yield (or give way) to the left. You merge into the traffic when there is a space.

There are no lanes in roundabouts, so stay in the space you entered.

Your GPS will tell you which exit to take, such as take the 3rd exit on the right. Sometimes this is a guessing game as the 2nd exit could be a dirt track or maybe just the suggestion of an exit. There will be vertically stacked signs for all the places off each exit, which makes having a passenger navigating for you so much easier!

If you can’t figure it out just stay on the roundabout, making loops until you see your sign. One time with my then 12 year old riding shotgun we looped around the roundabout about 20 times before we found our exit, which was one of about 40 signs all stacked up, and wasn’t easy to find the first 19 times! Really it’s all just part of the fun.

RELATED POST: HOW TO ORDER COFFEE IN ITALY

9. Stay To The Right

Most of the motorways are going to be two lanes in each direction. The left lane is for passing, so stay in the right lane unless you are passing someone.

10. Watch For Speed Traps

There are camera speed traps along all the motorways/highways. Just as with ZTLs you won’t know you’ve got a speeding fine for months, and these fines are hefty.

camera speed trap on italian road.

I have learned the hard way that if my name and credit card are the ones on the rental car booking, no one else is driving. A year or so after a trip driving through Puglia I found that my friend who kept wanting to drive had been blowing through speed traps like a race car driver. Each fine was for 270 euros, each also came with an administrative fee from Hertz, and each fine was set to double if not paid in 60 days.

camera speed trap sign on italian road

Luckily each fine indicated exactly where the speeding had happened, so I was able to show her that it was all her, but it took some wrangling to get the money wired to Puglia and off my card.

11. There Will Be Tolls

Be prepared for toll roads and toll booths. Just because they mostly take credit cards doesn’t mean the credit card machine will be working, so have coins ready.

toll booth on italian highway
Don’t go in the yellow line…

Also as you are exiting the motorway into the toll area look for the yellow telepass sign and then make sure you don’t go in those lanes. My first time driving alone in Italy I got into the telepass lane, backed traffic up all the way to the motorway, couldn’t get out of the line, and was somewhere between a heart attack and bursting into tears when a nice fellow on a motorbike figured out what was up and came and rescued me.

I haven’t made that mistake twice!

You can’t guarantee that there will be a human working the toll booth, so have a variety of coins with you.

12. Don’t Trust The GPS

Well not entirely anyway. One time I had the people at Hertz program the rental car’s built in GPS system for me. Initially it was shouting at me in Russian, but once I got it to English it started giving me crazy directions. I was on my way to San Gimignano, a route I have driven a thousand times, so I knew it was giving me crazy-wrong directions.

On your phone the Google Maps GPS is the worst and will try to drive you off cliffs. Waze is good but will always take you on circuitous routes that may save you minutes but will have you arriving with a full head of grey hair, as it routes you through alleyways and side streets and hair raising turns. Apple Maps is perhaps the best, but Siri still doesn’t always get it right.

If you miss a highway exit it can be 30 minutes before you get to the next one to turn back. With that in mind, mapping the drive beforehand can be a really good idea, just so you have a general idea of where you’re going.

13. You May Get A Stick Shift

In Italy I actually prefer driving a stick shift, especially when driving through the hills. I spend a considerable amount of driving time in Tuscany, which in turn means a lot of time driving through the hills! A stick shift gives you so much more control as you are buzzing around the countryside and is much more fun to drive.

Fiat 500 XL Interior

This past summer Hertz put me in an automatic station wagon, which apart from having zero coolness whatsoever, also was a pain to drive in the hills as it couldn’t down shift quickly enough.

volvo station wagon tuscany
The mom wagon in Tuscany. Sensible but not a great drive in the hills.

But be advised that most of the rental cars in Europe are stick shifts. If you require an automatic you need to specify that when you book your car, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get one. If none have come back in when you are picking your car up you will be given a manual transmission.

14. Rent A Diesel

In my experience renting endless cars in Italy, diesels get much better gas mileage and diesel is much less expensive than petrol/gasoline.

Expect to pay between $7 and $9 per gallon on gasoline.

Whenever possible, book a diesel! They run quietly and efficiently and leave you with more money for shopping.

RELATED POST: WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET SICK IN ITALY

15. Get Super Cover

You will have several insurance options with your rental car. Choose the Super Cover option. This comes with zero deductible, so if anything happens to your car you can walk away.

Most rental car companies have a 3000 euro deductible and will have you paying through the nose for the smallest scratch.

A cursory glance at cars in Italy will tell you that most of them are covered in dings and scratches.

The chances of someone bumping your parked car or opening their door into it are huge, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Super Cover is expensive and can add an extra 45 euros per day to your 20 euro per day rental, but can be worth every penny if you get so much as one scratch on your car.

16. Stop At An Autogrille

At least once while you are driving on the highways in Italy, stop at an Autogrille. These are something like our truck stops in the U.S. but oh so different!

Yes you can gas up the car there, but they also have a full espresso bar, a full bar, and really fantastic food.

autogrille truck stop foos in iatly is incredible!
Can you even believe this is a truckstop???

Unlike the guaranteed gastric turmoil of the smelly rolling sausages and dubious foods at truck stops here in the states, the food at the truck stops across Italy is tremendous. From fresh panini to crisp salads and much more, a country whose culture is so deeply bound into their cuisine doesn’t tolerate bad food for hungry travelers!

fresh salads at autogrille in Italy
fresh salads at Autogrille

Even after all these years of travel in Italy I still get a huge kick out of stopping at Autogrilles. Often we will buy breads and cheeses and fresh sliced prosciutto at a local village market to bring home for dinner then stop at an Autogrille on the way home and pick up salad to have with it. You will love it!

For more tips on traveling in Italy pick up my best selling book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget)    Available worldwide on Amazon. Join my Private Members Newsletter HERE for twice monthly newsletters giving you more tips and ideas to take your Italy trip from great to completely fantastic!

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