Italy has given us so many wonders -- the Mona Lisa, hottie Francesco Arca -- it's hard to choose the one gift they've given us that's better than all the rest. But if you're a coffee lover, the answer is clear: cappuccino, latte, macchiato ... need I go on? Ready to take your love of coffee to the next level, and drink it like a true Italian? Here are some tips.
1. Get the Lingo
You already know most of the Italian words we here in the States use for coffee, but while you're in Italy, the lingo is a little different. A caffè is our espresso, while a macchiato is that shot of espresso with a little steamed milk and an americano is that single shot with hot water added to dilute it a bit. If you order a cappuccino, it'll be the espresso with frothy milk on top and a sprinkling of chocolate.
2. Venti or Grande or ...?
Coffee drinks come in one small-ish size in Italy, about six ounces, or the small button on the Keurig in your kitchen.
3. Don't Even Ask...
You'll get strange looks if you ask for skim milk (they use whole), whipped cream or flavor shots (too sweet!) or decaf (why bother?). Most coffee shops in Italy also don't have to-go-cups, so be prepared to bring your own cup if you want to drink take-away.
4. What Time is It?
Here in the States, it's rare to hear someone order a capp at night. But it's a (minor) faux pas to order a cappuccino after 10 am., because in Italy, it's considered an early-morning drink.
5. Don't Dawdle
Coffee shops in the States are made for sitting, reading, working on the computer, or just hanging out with friends. Not so in Italy. There, you order your drink and just drink it and go. Feel free to spend some time in a cafe, but gulp-and-go if you're at an Italian coffee shop.
6. Bottoms up!
In most Italian coffee shops, you'll get a small glass of water with your coffee.Why? You're supposed to drink it before your coffee, to help "cleanse your palate" so your coffee will taste better.
7. Don't Forget the Chocolate
There are so many tasty Italian chocolate-coffee drinks we just haven't imported yet! The bicerin is a layer of espresso, a layer of cocoa, then a layer of milk, served in a clear glass so you can see the layers. Then there's the marocchino, which is espresso, cocoa powder, and topped with milk froth. If you love cocoa by itself, try a super-rich cioccolata calda.
8. The Money
Coffee is cheap in Italy -- much less than our American Starbucks -- and while you don't have to, you can tip if you'd like.
9. Watch Them Work
While you're savoring your drink, take a quick pause to watch the Italian baristas at work. They're amazing,moving so quickly, they're almost a blur!
If you've taken a coffee break in Italy, what other differences did you notice? Do tell!