Italian coffee culture is famous throughout the world. Part of the reason for this is the regional passions found throughout Italy. These passions are informed by Italian traditions, regional climates, local flavours, and of course, Italians themselves. Region to region, even sometimes city to city within a specific region are known to have their own coffee culture.
Coffee in Italy differs greatly depending on whether you’re in the north or the south.
In the south, Italians like their coffee on the strong and creamy side. They will sometimes have a glass of cold water first so that their mouths better withstand the high temperature of the coffee. This will also cleanse your palate, making the flavour of the coffee stronger. The end result is a sharp bitter aftertaste, which can be managed with a bit of sugar.
In the north, drinkers prefer a more delicate approach to Italian espresso. Here you are more likely to find medium roast coffee, which is why the Arabica bean is popular in this region. Northerners are after a sweet aftertaste while enjoying some time at an Italian cafe.
Drinking coffee in Italy is a game of regions, with different regions having particular specialities and favourites. An Italian coffee in one city may well not match up with the coffee of the same name in another. Coffee has the same degree of regional difference as does Italian cuisine.
We’ll take a quick look at some local traditions starting from all the way up with the Alps in the north working all the way down to the tip of the boot in the south.
Here you’ll find the caffè alla valdostana, which includes a blend of lemon peel, cinnamon, sugar, cloves, and juniper. It’s served in a grolla, a wooden cup that is passed around from friend to friend.
The bicerin is the famous local speciality of the city. It’s a blend of coffee, chocolate, and cream in a glass where you can see the different individual layers. Once your coffee arrive, pop in your spoon — it’s local tradition to stir ingredients together and savor the aromas before drinking.
Italian style coffee in the city of Padua dates back to a 19th Century coffee tradition called patavina. Originally among intellectuals and politicians, this drink combines espresso with cream, then finished with a dash of mint syrup and a dusting of cocoa.
The Moretta di Fano is a type of caffè corretto, which means it contains a bit of liqueur. In most places in Italy this would be a single liqueur. In Fano, it’s an equal blend of anise, rum and brandy.
Coffee in Naples includes a hazelnut taste, an ingredient of the region. First the server pours cream into the bottom of the cup, then tops it up with hot coffee. This gives the drinker a nice contrast in temperature.
Got ice? Salento coffee is prepared in an unusual way — with an ice cube. In some cafes, you’ll find the cube dropped directly in sweetened coffee, in others the coffee will be poured over the ice cube in the glass.
Now you’ll know how to order your first (and second and third) coffee of the day when you embark on your Italian adventure