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Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Be Part of the Coffee Bar Culture in Italy

Caffe latte og iskaffeCaffe latte og iskaffe (Photo credit: Wikipedia) How to Be Part of the Coffee Bar Culture in Italy

By M. Cowan

Want to fit into & feel part of the lively coffee bar culture in Italy?
Busy local bars (cafes) in Italy attract a steady stream of regulars who drop by daily for a quick coffee (espresso) and later on a quick drink, to get caught up on local news with each other, glance at the newspapers, and chat back and forth with the barista. Cafes are a type of gathering place for the community.
Later they usually offer a variety of freshly made sandwiches so you may return there for a quick bite. At any time of day you can choose from a wide choice of drinks from fruit juice to wines to hard liquor like scotch to liqueurs.
Breakfast in bars in Italy is typically an espresso, caffe latte or cappuccino with a croissant or similar pastry. At home most people have a caffe latte and biscuits or bread with jam and that's it, the continental breakfast. Many better hotels offer a wider choice for tourists like ham, cheese, cereals, fruit and yoghurt. But why not have breakfast Italian style at a bar with local people and mix and mingle? It will also cost less than your hotel breakfast.

At most coffee bars, first you go to the cashier and pay for what you'll order. The cashier gives you the bill which you present to the barista at the bar counter as you order. This is an efficient system in busy bars where many people come and go in the space of five minutes.
Many bars are small so you stand at the bar counter as you drink your coffee and eat your croissant. In larger bars, especially those in major tourist areas and famous piazzas like Piazza San Marco in Venice, if you sit down at a table where a waiter serves you, you'll pay double the price of the stand-up coffee. If you plan to linger over your cappuccino to admire the architecture and views and enjoy the friend you're with, sit down, stay for awhile and soak up some "dolce vita". Some smaller bars, especially in little towns, with tables inside or outside may not charge extra so ask first.
Some Italian coffee lingo:
1. If you order "coffee" or "caffe", you'll get espresso. For a weaker coffee, order "caffe Americano" or a "caffe lungo"-a long coffee
2. If you order a "latte" like you might at Starbucks, you'll get what you asked for---"latte" or milk. The barista will ask you if you want it hot or cold. Order "caffe latte."
3. "Caffe macchiata" is espresso with a drop of milk in it.
4. A "caffe latte" has more milk and less foam than a "cappuccino", so I prefer it.
Cappuccino and caffe latte are for breakfast, heavy with milk to get you started for the day. Italians never order cappuccino or caffe latte with lunch or dinner. It's too heavy after all the food. They drink an espresso to finish the meal when they've finished eating. During a meal they drink water and/or wine. Coffee, especially a strong one, would only overpower the meal.
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Margaret Cowan takes guided tours to Italy twice a year - to find out about the next tour visit her website -
To download Margaret's FREE e-book "Memories of Florence, Italy" go here

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