3 countries, 6 cities, 15 places and 28 different blends. This was my coffee trip. An amazing journey into how European coffee is made and where the best places to buy it from are. Yet if you were to narrow it down to just one country – one European country where coffee is more than just a breakfast drink – where would you pick?
That’s right, Italy. This is my Ultimate Guide to Coffee in Italy. I’ll take you through a brief introduction to coffee culture in Italy, what Italian coffee types there are, and we’ll even say what the most popular coffee in Italy is. But before I dive into all that, you have to know how to say coffee in Italian: un caffé.
Get ready for your mouth to water, your eyes to keep darting to the kettle, and your heart to keep asking you to pour un caffé, as I start a coffee journey across Italy.
How Italians Really Drink Coffee
Before I start looking at the coffee itself, let’s have a quick crash course on coffee culture in Italy. Firstly, that looming question in everyone’s mind: why is Italian Coffee so great? Is there a special way in which they actually consume it? Does it matter how you drink coffee or is it more about the way in which you brew it? Do they just grow better coffee there?
The truth is that coffee in Italy is probably much the same as what is available in many other countries, but because Italy has a more artistic coffee culture, it’s probably got a lot more people who are better at brewing it (not in all cases though). Coffee in Italy is drunk in much the same way as the rest of the world. They don’t take part in elaborate ceremonies or restrict their coffee drinking with unspoken rules. They just happen to drink a lot of it.
They will usually start their day with a cup, then, of course, there is the 9 am mandatory coffee break, then there’s mid-morning coffee, followed by lunch and coffee, right the way up to your evening cooldown coffee. I guess that what we’re trying to say is that if you want to drink coffee like an Italian, you’re going to need to drink an awful lot of it (apparently not as much as some Nordic countries though).
Coffee Cup Rundown: The Best Coffee in Italy
Caffé / Espresso 5/5
The basic coffee. My mom and I tried this at a couple of locations due to the easy nature of drinking it. Generally, the taste depended on who was brewing it. There’s not so much you can say about an Espresso except that it’s great as a morning pick-me-up and will probably be the cheapest (or one of the cheapest) coffees on the menu. Giving it a perfect 5/5 because what’s better than just a basic coffee?
If you order un caffé (a coffee), this is what you will end up being given.
The Cappuccino is largely regarded as one of the most popular coffees in Italy, and is a mix of espresso, foamed milk, and steamed milk.
We, of course, had to go for a Cappuccino in the only place where it could really be judged: Rome. We went to a nice place called Gia Roma 1886, where it cost €7.50. Maybe it was because we had them after 11 am (there is a rule against this), but I was less than impressed. The coffee was cold and the milk hadn’t been steamed properly.
Due to the Cappuccino’s status, though, I thought it might be best to give it another try. I did that at Chef Express in the Foggia train station. This time, it came with a twist. It was a soy Cappuccino. Still, it wasn’t very good. Too dry and not creamy enough. It might have been the places we ordered from, but the Cappuccino just didn’t live up to my standards and it probably won’t live up to yours.
Caffé Lungo 3/5
A Caffé Lungo is essentially a single or double espresso shot, except it has double the amount of water and half the amount of coffee. This makes it a little weaker and easier to drink.
I had a Caffé lungo in Foggia, whilst we were on our way to San Giovanni Rotondo. We went to a place called Montepeloso for about an hour whilst we waited for a bus. It was nice, but I did feel that maybe it was a little bit too strong and a bit too dry. The coffee here was cheap though, costing just €0,90 for one cup.
Caffé Corretto 4/5
A Caffé Corretto is a double espresso with a shot of alcohol. It’s perfect for warming the blood and getting you ready for anything which lies ahead.
My mom managed to sneak one of these in at the RistoBar, just a couple of moments before our Vatican Tour. It cost just €3, which I felt was pretty reasonable considering its proximity to the Vatican. We hadn’t actually planned on eating anything, BUT… the smell was incredible.
Wafting into our noses and making our mouths water, we couldn’t help but order a few cups to enjoy whilst we waited. We were not disappointed. The coffee was incredible.
Caffé Macchiato 2/5
A Caffé Macchiato is essentially a cup of coffee with a bit of (possibly) foamed milk. It’s not your most exciting cup, but simplicity breeds reliability. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when we picked up a cup of Caffé Macchiato in Rome’s Agora Restaurant & Bar.
Being free with the breakfast, I guess we couldn’t have asked for much, but it felt very, very weak and somewhat blended. The Croissants here were pretty darn good though!
Caffé Schiumato 4/5
A Caffé Schiumato is similar to a Macchiato, expect the milk on the top MUST be foamed (it’s very important). A pretty decent cup of coffee all-round and hard to make a mistake with. My mom tried this at the V y Ta in the Rome Termini train station and loved it.
Creamy and perfectly split, yet the espresso itself might have been a little bit too strong. If you like your coffee strong though, this is a definite recommendation.
Caffé Latte 4.5/5
We all know what a Latte is. A creamy coffee made to taste light and fresh, yet still give you that caffeine kick you’re looking for.
I decided to opt for a latte before we went on the Vatican City tour and whilst we were waiting at the RistoBar. I was I glad that I did.
Latte Macchiato 5/5
So, I didn’t officially have a ‘proper’ Latte Macchiato but it was pretty close. Moreover, the Soy Latte Macchiato I did have was incredible. So incredible that I gave it the highest score on this list, along with the Caffée Shakerato below.
Surprisingly, I found this hidden gem in a place called V y Ta in the Rome Termini train station; the last place you would expect to find amazing coffee. Creamy, mildly sweet, and with a twist of Vanilla, this is one of the most perfect cups of coffee which touched my lips.
A Caffe Marocchino is an espresso with frothed milk and dusted with cocoa powder. This gives it a unique chocolatey aftertaste.
My mom asked for a Caffe Marocchino at the Chef Express in the Foggia train station. For €1,40, it was ok. She ended up giving it a 4, saying that the coffee itself was pretty nice, but the chocolate added to the top was a little too bland for her. We hadn’t tried it again, so we’re unsure if this is the same everywhere, but you should probably expect less of a chocolatey after kick than you were hoping for.
Caffé Americano 2/5
Everyone knows what a Caffé Americano is. It’s basically the standard coffee for those of us who live outside of Italy. It’s weaker than its espresso counterpart but still has a rich coffee taste. We know quite a few people who tend to try and avoid the Caffé Americano because they think it’s too bitter.
However, if you find someone who makes it well, then there isn’t anything quite as good to wake you up in the morning (apart from maybe an Espresso).
Caffé Freddo 4/5
Another of the Iced Coffee drinks we tried whilst in Italy. The Caffé Freddo is a mix of a double espresso shot and some cold milk foam. This mixture is then poured over a couple of ice cubes and served up nice and cold.
Our Caffé Freddo experience took place in the Vatican City at the Caffe Del Forno. We were here whilst on a break from our tour of the Vatican and decided that it would be best to grab something cold and refreshing. The cup was great. At just €5,90 for both coffees in the Vatican, it was also (somewhat) reasonably priced.
Caffé shakerato 5/5
This strangely named coffee is an espresso mixed with ice cubes and a dash of sugar. It’s sweet, it’s cold, and it’s perfect for cooling you down on a hot day. I had a cup of this at the Gran Café in Foggia for just €1,65.
I gave it a 5/5 for being one of the best cups of coffee I had during the entire trip.
What’s the Best Coffee You Can Buy in Italy?
Obviously, the best coffee you can buy is subjective, and we don’t know exactly what your taste buds are like. However, there were a few cups which stood out to us as being far superior above the rest.
For me, the best coffee was either the Soy Latte Macchiato at V y Ta in the Rome Termini train station or the Caffé Shakerato at the Gran Caffé in Foggia. Both were incredible drinks. If you’re more interested in something sweet, then the Shakerato is best, whilst the Soy Latte Macchiato was light and creamy. My mom preferred the Iced Cream Café at Montepeloso in Foggia. Another sweeter one, but great for cooling down.
Where to Get the Best Coffee in Italy
We found that the best coffee locations in Italy were not the big, obvious and looming cafes you might notice as soon as you enter the city. Take, for instance, when we headed to the Vatican City. We were asked to meet our guide at a place called Cafe Vaticano but found that the cheaper looking place just down the road, the creatively named RistoBar, was far superior in both taste and (we felt) atmosphere. The RistoBar is located Via Farini, 48/50, 00185.
A couple of our other favorite places included:
Gran Café in Foggia
This was definitely one of our favorite cafes. The place was busy, but the staff here helped to make sure we were comfortable (and hooked up to the web). They also sold coffee you could take home there as well. I bought a bag of Arabica coffee used for making Mocha for Cez.
The Gran Café can be found at Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi, 11, 71121 Foggia.
V y Ta in Rome
This was definitely another favorite of ours. I gave my coffee here at 5/5 and my mom gave her coffee a 4/5. Moreover, the place has fast and easily accessible WIFI, along with plenty of fresh pastries, sandwiches, and even salads! The place is clean, has a great aesthetic and really feels very upmarket.
The V y Ta is located at Retail Food Srl, Via Vicenza, 5/A, 00185 Roma.
Don’t Limit Yourself to What You Know
One of the big things we learned from putting together this Ultimate Guide to Coffee in Italy was that you can’t limit your experiences to what you already know about. Without having tried some new flavors, we wouldn’t have discovered our favorites. When you’re next in Italy, make sure to try as many different flavors as you can.
Try something new and exotic if you can. If you do this, you’re bound to find the best cup of coffee in Italy for you.