Italian Locals Will Side-Eye You For Placing One Common Coffee Order After Morning Passes

No matter where you are in the world, if you need your coffee fix, you can probably get it (including on the plane, though you actually should skip coffee there). That doesn't mean that ordering it is exactly the same in other countries as it is in America. While the joy of sitting down and chatting over a cup of that luscious liquid energy boost is the same, the culture can be vastly different.


In Italy, where coffee culture is strong, ordering a cappuccino after 11 a.m. is a no-no. You will immediately be pegged as a tourist for doing so. For Italians, cappuccino, and most other coffee drinks with milk, are breakfast drinks that go well with the customary sweet morning pastries or treats. 

You can most likely still get one after 11 a.m. if you want, but experiencing local culture is part of travel. Nevertheless, when it comes to ordering coffee in Italy, there are more rules and differences in how — and what — you can order.

Ordering your morning coffee in Italy

To avoid even more side-eyes from Italian locals, when ordering coffee, you should know how to ask for what you want. You may want to whip out your Google Translation app for stress-free communication — but we also have some pointers on what to say. To order coffee, say, "Vorrei un ... " (Vor-ay oon ...), which means "I would like a (insert coffee varietal here)." Add in "per favore" (purr fah-vor-ah) to say "please" and finish with "grazie mille" (grat-zie mee-lay) to say "thank you very much." If you want decaf coffee, ask for a "decaffeinato" (deh-caf-fin-ah-toh), or a "deca," (deh-cah), which is easier if you don't speak Italian. 


Aside from the cappuccino, there is another order to be wary of. Even if it's breakfast, ordering a latte in Italy will get you a glass of milk. Speaking of milk, you may not always find milk alternatives, but some places have them. "Latte di mandorla" (lah-tay dee man-door-la) is almond milk, "latte de cocco" (lay-tay dee coh-coh) is coconut milk, and "latte di soia" (lah-tay dee soy-ah) is soy milk. You can, in the morning, ask for a "caffè latte" (cah-fay lah-tay), which is an espresso shot with two parts steamed milk.

Don't bother asking for small, medium, or large coffees, either. There are standard sizes, like 6 ounces for a cappuccino, 8 ounces for a caffè latte, and a regular shot size for espresso. Usually Italians order an espresso and go back for a second one if they want, but you can order an "espresso doppio" (es-press-oh doh-pee-oh) for a double. 


A guide to Italian coffee in the afternoon and evening

The coffee you order after your morning cappuccino may be different than what you're used to as well. If you order "un caffè," (oon caf-ay), you'll get an espresso shot. A caffè Americano is another option that is an espresso with some hot water to dilute it, a bit more like what you might make at home in your own coffee pot. If you need at least a little milk, you can order a caffè macchiato, which is different than what you might get here. The name means "stained" or "marked" with milk, and it has a little frothy steamed milk in it. (By the way, you can ask for cold milk by ordering "latte freddo" (lah-tay fray-doh), which is "cold milk.) In fact, if you visit in the summer, you can order a "caffè freddo" (caf-ay fray-doh) in which you'll find espresso mixed with ice and sugar. 


Another option if you want to break out of your comfort zone is a "caffè corretto" (caf-ay cor-eh-to), in which alcohol is added to the coffee. It may be something like grappa or sambuca. One other thing you might be surprised by: When you get your caffè (aka espresso), you may be served a little water to cleanse your palate before or after the coffee.