The love affair between coffee and the Italians has been going on for more than six centuries. Discover the rich culture of drinking coffee in Italy.

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Coffee is Italy's iconic drink and, without it, it may be really difficult to start the day. Drinking coffee in Italy at the bar is more than just a pleasant habit. It is a ritual, a tradition of the whole country from north to south, and few can do without it. Let's see how drinking coffee in Italy may be a unique experience!

Every year on 1st October, the world comes together to celebrate coffee and recognise the millions of people across the globe - from farmers, to roasters, baristas, coffee shop owners and more - who work hard to create and serve the beverage we all love. By taking advantage of the ticket that Visit Italy offers its readers, you can benefit from the Genoa City Pass to travel comfortably by public transport in search of the marvelous historic café of this enchanting city.

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Drinking coffee in Italy: a real love affair

Drinking coffee in Italy: a real love affair

The spread of the Ottoman Empire also allowed coffee to spread rapidly to many countries around the world. In Italy, coffee first arrived in 1570, when Prospero Alpino from Padua brought some packages to Venice from the East . Initially, it was sold in pharmacies but it wasn't considered as a drink until the 18th century.

The first shop selling coffee was opened in Venice in 1683 and a few years later, in 1763, shops became 218 . Coffee was changing from being a mysterious object to a drink appreciated by the people, love was about to blossom. Between 1800 and 1900, shops selling coffee became places of cultural exchange, salons to talk about literature and politics. Only with the creation of the 'Italian bar' coffee became a daily appointment from North to South of the country, symbol of pleasure and conviviality.

In 1884, the first patent for the coffee machine was registered. The inventor of the machine was Angelo Moriondo, who presented his work during the Universal Exhibition in Turin. Coffee machine became a commercial product and began to be mass-produced only in the early 1900s. In 1933, Alfonso Bialetti invented the moka coffee maker, the traditional machine popular in every Italian kitchen. Over the years, more than 105 million different models have been registered.

Drinking coffee in Italy: varieties, aromas and characteristics

Drinking coffee in Italy: varieties, aromas and characteristics

Drinking coffee in Italy is a pleasant and relaxing moment, particularly appreciated for taking a break from daily commitments. It also offers the opportunity to enjoy an enveloping experience enhanced by the delicious fragrances of the selected varieties. The main coffee types cultivated worldwide are Arabica, Liberica, Robusta, and Excelsa, each of which is distinguished by its peculiar characteristics essentially related to the areas of origin of the beans and the methods used for roasting, thus acquiring a wide range of aromatic notes, from velvety tones to more intense flavors. 

Arabica coffee conquers the palate with its delicate, sweet, fragrant, and slightly acidic flavors and is very appreciated by refined connoisseurs of the classic taste. If you choose the Robusta variety, its intense flavour and delicious mix of spices, chocolate, and dried fruits will mesmerize you. People who prefer a marvelous coffee prepared traditionally can also opt for the Excelsa variety, with its delicate and pleasantly scented aromas, or pamper themselves by trying the less well-known Liberica variety.

In a typical Italian café, you can enjoy a good espresso coffee while standing at the counter or sitting at the table and combining it with some tasty treats. Should you decide to order a latte macchiato or cappuccino, it is best to do so before 11 a.m. and not near meals.

A delicious coffee garnished with milk cream and flavored with pistachio is particularly appreciated in Palermo. With a Visit Italy ticket, you can undertake an engaging tour to discover the enchanting treasures of Palazzo Asmundo.

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Drinking coffee in Italy: let's see how they make it

Drinking coffee in Italy: let's see how they make it

Caffè/Caffé Normale/Espresso: it almost sounds like a password, there's nothing else to add. A normal coffee is served in a cup and bitter. It provides a valuable injection of energy, perfect for a daily boost. It is generally served in a dark cup without milk, combined with a complimentary glass of water to intensify the aroma and persistence. 

Caffè macchiato caldo: a normal coffee spotted with a drop or two of hot milk on top. If you can't do without milk but don't feel like drinking a cappuccino, you could try a café macchiato, an espresso served in a cup and garnished with a delicious milk foam. Caffè Macchiato is betwixt and between a cappuccino and an espresso and is ideal for those who do not like coffee that is too strong or contains a lot of milk. It is usually drunk in the morning.

Caffè macchiato freddo: a coffee with a spotted with a drop or two of cold milk on top.

Caffè schiumato: a cup of coffee with steamed milk.

Caffé Marocchino (or Espressino): It is served in a glass cup so that you can admire all the delicious layers. You proceed by sprinkling the inside with cocoa, adding an energizing espresso, and then completing with a plentiful foamed milk and another sprinkling of cocoa to make it even more delicious. In some cases, some layers of Nutella cream chocolate are spread around the sides of the glass

Caffè decaffeinato o deca: caffeine-free version. This coffee is very suitable for those who can only tolerate and consume low amounts of caffeine due to insomnia or anxiety problems without giving up this beverage.

Caffè corretto: It is a well-established Italian custom to add a few drops of a refreshing distillate, such as grappa, brandy, rum or sambuca, to coffee. It is perfect for warming up and easing digestion after a meal.

Caffè d'orzo in tazza piccola: caffeine-free and made from barley, served in a small cup. It's a typical non-alcoholic hot drink, ideal for stimulating digestion, which is obtained by an infusion of dried, roasted, and ground barley. You can prepare it with a specific barley mocha, a traditional coffee pot, or an espresso machine. It is a valid alternative for people who cannot take caffeine, as its composition does not include any stimulating substances.

Caffè d'orzo in tazza grande: caffeine-free and made from barley, served in a bigger cup.

Caffè ginseng: it’s essentially espresso coffee flavored with ginseng extract, very popular in recent years. It is a panacea obtained by adding a stimulant ginseng extract to the classic espresso, which has extraordinary tonic properties.

Caffè doppio: Double Expresso. If you are tired in a particular period or just a caffeine lover, we suggest you try a delicious double coffee, equivalent to a double espresso. 

Caffè lungo: it is something between a normal coffee and a small American coffee. It involves a greater amount of water in the preparation and a longer brewing time of a few seconds, which gives it a less intense flavor and a more delicate aroma. Long coffee differs from American coffee, a popular after-dinner emulsion made from a soluble preparation, which is less bitter than the classic blend used for espresso or mocha. The resulting drink is poured into a kettle or flask, which keeps it hot for a few hours. 

Caffè ristretto: it has a strong, concentrated taste. It contains less water than a traditional medium coffee and is the thickest type of coffee in Italy.

Caffè freddo: an iced coffee, very popular during summer. It is a black, iced coffee with an intense aroma, prepared by mixing it with sugar, chilling it in the refrigerator inside a bottle, and then serving it in a glass. 

Caffè con panna: a coffee with cream. It is an espresso covered with whipped cream and plenty of foam, ideal for a tempting breakfast.

Caffè leccese: typical of Apulia, coffee with added almond milk and ice

All the mentioned "caffè" can be served also in glass. 

Caffè Shakerato: It consists of espresso coffee sweetened and shaken in a cocktail mixer with the addition of ice and sugar depending on preference. You can taste it in a glass, guarnished with a delicious froth, and sometimes with a vanilla liqueur. It is a tonic that helps to cool down and better cope with the heat of summer days, and bars start serving it more frequently as summer approaches. 

Cappuccino: It is a breakfast drink prepared with steamed foamy milk. It is usually served in a larger cup, garnished with delicious chocolate shavings and a generous sprinkling of cocoa.

Remind that the coffee you order at the bar in Italy is always espresso. If you prefer an American coffee, in a large cup, it should always be specified.


Drinking coffee in Italy: regional differences between the North and South of the of the peninsula

Taking a bird's-eye tour of the enchanting locations sprinkled in Italy, we may find some substantial differences regarding preparation, tastes related to drinking coffee in Italy, and consumption patterns between the regions of Northern and Southern Italy due to different habits and anthropological and cultural reasons.

Starting our overview from the Northern Italian areas, we can see a preference for the Arabica variety and for fruity, delicate blends processed with a medium roast: the locals predominantly choose an invigorating sweetened espresso, a macchiato with hot milk or a delicious Moroccan, garnished with milk and a sprinkling of cocoa. In the summertime, it is customary to order a shaken espresso flavored with a liqueur spiced with vanilla.

Moving to the sunny and lush areas of Southern Italy, you will discover a coffee with intense, round, and decisive traits, prepared with blends enriched with the fine Robusta variety. The so-called concentrated espresso is very popular, accompanied by the traditional glass of water to intensify the fragrance. Among the peculiarities inherent to the coffee ritual in Italy, we mention the cuccumella, an original Neapolitan coffee pot ideal for enjoying an intense and energizing coffee. The unique feature of this practice is the slowed-down pace of preparation.

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