How to Drink Coffee Like an Italian in the Alps This Winter
February 20, 2020
Ah, Italy, the home of coffee… There’s no disputing that Italians are the all-time kings of coffee. So if you’re dreaming of gleaming white slopes dappled in sunshine as you longingly sip your coffee at your desk this morning, then why not combine the two and book a ski trip to the Italian Alps or Dolomites! Because there are few better ways to start the day than with a real Italian coffee enjoyed after a good breakfast, watching the light gleam over the mountains as the lifties prepare the ski slopes for the day ahead. Then, fuelled by caffeine, enjoy a great day out on the slopes, with the promise of a delicious mid-afternoon coffee to come later!.
But if you’re going to punctuate your day with tasty coffee, you’ll need to be clued up on how to order it, Italian-style. Get it wrong, and you risk the scorn of the barista – a plight few that experience it ever truly recover from.
You’re a Long Way from Starbucks, Dorothy…
Even if you consider yourself to be something of a coffee connoisseur, and frequent trendy, independent coffee shops back home, it’s a whole different ball-game in Italy. Knowing which coffee to order, and when, is of critical importance if you want to maintain any kind of dignity. Italian coffee is nothing like the coffee you’ll find in a high street cafe in England, and those coffee-lovers who are humble enough to accept this, are going to find the whole process much easier.
Consider the foreboding tale of the American tourist and Starbucks aficionado on holiday in Cervinia. Well-versed as she was in ‘Italian’ coffee lingo from her daily half-caff venti skinny vanilla latte, she beamed with pride and excitement after lunch on day one as she ordered a ‘latte’. The waiter shot her a quizzical look. ‘Latte? Caldo o freddo?‘
Hot or cold? Clearly he was having a joke. ‘Caldo, of course!’ she replied. Sure enough he returned a minute later with precisely what she had ordered – a cup of hot milk.
Having heard this precautionary tale, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s worth being versed in the Italian coffee lingo (and etiquette) before your trip. So for those planning a snowy getaway to a stunning Italian destination this winter or spring, take note of this basic guide and you’ll be just fine…
Cappuccino is For Breakfast Only
Shocking as it may be, it’s verging on offensive to locals to order a cappuccino any time after around 11am. Chefs will consider a post-lunch cappuccino as tantamount to drowning his carefully prepared food with hot milk, and Italians are adamant that milk unsettles the stomach after a meal. The same goes for lattes, obviously (well, ‘café lattes’ if you don’t want to end up like the American in my earlier tale).
But when it’s breakfast time, go wild! If you’re craving a stronger coffee taste, order your cappuccino with doppio espresso senza cacao. You can also opt for a cappuccino scuro, which has less milk than the standard cappuccino. And while we’re at it, you may as well have some breakfast vocabulary up your sleeve: croissants are brioche, and you can have your eggs fritto al occhio di bue (sunny side up), in camicia (poached), alla coque (soft boiled), uova strapazzate (scrambled), or uovo (hard boiled).
Stick to Costa If It’s a Vanilla Macchiato You’re After…
Drinking coffee is an important part of Italian social life and espressos are often taken juststanding at the bar.An Americano is a shot of espresso with hot water poured on top. Order one and you could well receive an espresso in a larger cup with a pot of water on the side. In fact, pretty much everything is a variation of espresso. The common varieties are:
Espresso: the classic small cup of strong coffee.
Doppio: a double of the same.
Ristretto: literally ‘restricted’, half the water is used to extract only the first and most-concentrated drips of an espresso.
Lungo: literally ‘long’, double the water is let through the coffee, like a watered-down espresso.
Macchiato: literally ‘stained’, as in stained with a drop of warm milk (macchiato caldo) or cold milk (macchiato freddo).
Corretto: literally ‘correct’, this is a classic espresso with a drop of grappa in it.
Whilst you certainly won’t find anything with artificial vanilla or hazelnut flavouring in it, which are so popular in international chain cafes, you can often get nutella or hazelnut paste in your espresso (caffé nocciola). In fact, speciality coffee bars can have all sorts of delicious options on the menu. If you’re in one of those, order away.
Take a Sip and Enjoy
So there you have it – the fundamental unwritten rules of coffee society, written down just for you. Follow these insider tips closely and you’ll be sure to get the most out of the authentic café experience.
Of course, the best cultural insurance is to travel with Momentum Ski. We make sure every one of our clients has all the insider info and advice they need to look like a seasoned visitor to that country, even if they aren’t. You can find out more about our Italian destinations here.