A Guide to Ordering Coffee In Italy

Don’t Forget To Eat A Bambolini With Your Espresso. An Italian Donut, Yum!

Italians have elegantly mastered with great pleasure their morning coffee routines which I embraced with great enthusiasm. Italians inundate coffee bars before they head to work or enjoy their weekend adventures. These Italian coffee bars are literally like a bar – quite cozy with a long bar, that is either parallel to a wall or curves around the coffee area which houses a coffee machine, and a display case full of delectable Italian pastries. Don’t expect to find any chairs. That’s right! It is customary to stand. Al banco (at the bar) is where Italian morning life begins. Italians order their espresso or cappuccino, sometimes with a small pastry, down it at the bar in less than a few minutes then continue on with their day.

My morning ritual for the month I was living in Florence was very much the same. I found a few Italian coffee bars close to my apartment that I often frequented. So much so that the barmen knew my order – cappuccino molto caldo con bambolini (a very hot cappuccino with an Italian donut). I loved hanging at the bar longer than expected to take in the vibe, as this is something we do not do in North America. Italians do not muck around. Unlike us North Americans who will happily sip on a latte for longer than we should and take up a whole table with our computers, books, jackets, and phones.


  • There are only a few coffee options that Italians drink – an espresso, cappuccino or macchiato. Cappuccinos are drunk only in the mornings as Italians believe a lot of dairy ruins the digestive system. An espresso or macchiato (espresso with a dollop of milk/foam) can be drunk any time of day, even after dinner. If you want a weaker shot of espresso, ask for caffè lungo which is a shot of espresso with a splash of hot water.
  • Walk in and place your order confidently with the barman (pay after you finish).
  • If the coffee bar is busy, sometimes you order at the till. Grab your receipt, place it in front of you at the bar then tell the barman your order. They trust you, so most of the time you won’t have to hand them your receipt. A note on receipts. Italian law states that they must give you a receipt with all purchases, even if you don’t want one.
  • Enjoy your caffè at the bar. Sometimes it’s a cluster of people downing their espresso like a shot of tequila, other times patrons linger longer and chat with the barman.
  • When you are finished, pay the bill if you haven’t done so.
  • Ordering your caffè to go is not customary unless at a train station.


Although most Italian coffee bars do not have indoor seating (maybe one table or a stool) some do have outdoor patios where you can sip on your beverage for longer than a quick blink. However, BEWARE, the prices will double if not triple when you sit your bum down on an outdoor seat. The €1 espresso or €1.30 cappuccino will now be at least €3-4 per beverage. And most will charge you a €2 coperto fee just to sit down. When you convert it to Canadian dollars, that is an $8 dollar (non-alcoholic) drink. YIKES! I’d rather stand and do as the Italians do.


*Has anything funny happened to you while ordering a drink in Italy? Comment below!*