There’s no disputing it: the Italians are the kings of coffee. If you opt for a ski holiday in Italy this winter, you’d be mad not to indulge in the authentic experience.
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.
And that mid-afternoon espresso on a piste-side sun terrace, moments after finally conquering that mogul field you’ve been eying all week? It’s perfection.
Unfortunately, there’s a huge pitfall you need to navigate successfully first. You need to order your delicious beverage from the waiter. 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…
That’s right – knowing what coffee to order (and when) is of critical importance if you want to avoid an international incident. Italian coffee is nothing like the coffee you’ll find in a high street cafe back home or anywhere else.
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.
Don’t want that to be you? Then I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth knowing a few things about coffee in Italy. For those clients and friends skiing in Italy this winter, study this little guide and you’ll be just fine.
Cappuccino Is a Breakfast Drink
I’m afraid so. Don’t be surprised if you see the waiter or barman frowning at you if you order a cappuccino after your delicious mountain lunch or dinner. Inwardly he can’t believe you’d pour hot milk over that wonderful meal the chef prepared, as it’s a common belief that too much milk unsettles your stomach after food.
The same goes for lattes, of course (or caffè latte if you don’t want to end up like the American lady mentioned earlier). Personally I tease my friends who order either after a meal by asking the restaurant staff to also bring them a selection of croissants and cereals. They soon get the idea!
When it’s breakfast time though, go right ahead. If you’re like me and prefer 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 remember: 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).
There’s No Filter Coffee or Flavours
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.
You also won’t find anything with vanilla or hazelnut flavouring which are so popular in the international chain cafes, but 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.
It’s Cheap, But Costs More to Sit Down
The other beauty of Italy is that coffee served at a bar is typically very cheap, costing an average of €1 for an espresso and just €1.50 for a cappuccino.
However, sit down and you’ll pay as much 50% more to sit at a table and have waiter service than to stand at the bar. You can’t stand at the bar everywhere though – unless you see others doing it, assume it’s table service only.
Sit Back, Take a Sip and Enjoy
Well, those are the fundamentals covered. Follow them closely and you have every chance to fare una bella figura. If you have any amusing anecdotes or words of wisdom on coffee drinking in Italy, I’d love to hear about them – just leave a comment below.
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.