Italian Coffee Culture


Since the internet in our apartment has been less than ideal, I’ve spent many mornings in various cafes, trying to get some work done. Now, most cafes in Italy are not like most cafes in the U.S. where you find people camped out in corners and mooching off free wifi for hours on end.

Lots of cafes in Italy don’t even offer free wifi and some of the cafes that do certainly don’t want you taking up valuable table space with a laptop. Luckily for me, Bologna is a student town so there are a few places that break the mold and I’ve learned a lot about Italian coffee culture while sipping my cappuccino in the mornings.

  1. Cappuccinos are for mornings only. Another one of those unspoken Italian food rules is that cappuccinos (and all other forms of milk-based coffee drinks) are only to be had before noon and never, ever after a full meal.
  2. Espresso? Italian love espresso but don’t try ordering one by calling it that. They call it caffè, they drink it all day long, and it’s real strong.
  3. Say it loud. Some of the best cafes in Bologna can get really busy and one of the things that I’ve quickly learned is that the employees won’t go out of their way to help me. The most important thing is to be confident and to call out your order, even if the barista doesn’t seem to be paying attention.
  4. Don’t forget your ticket. Some places have you wait in line to place your order, you pay, then you wait at the counter to give your ticket to the barista. Other places have you wait in line to place your order, you get a ticket, you then wait at the counter to give your ticket to the barista, you finish your coffee, then you wait in line again to pay. Either way, it’s important to hold on to your ticket and remain patient.
  5. Al banco. If they’re just ordering a quick caffè, Italians will usually just stand at the bar, down their caffè in one slurp, and head out the door. I’ve even seen a couple places that don’t have seating at all.

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