Ordering Coffee In Italy: A Beginner’s Guide To Coffee Etiquette 2024

Travels On Point Affiliate Disclosure Statement

Christa Adams of The Spirited Explorer kindly agreed to write this blog about ordering coffee in Italy. She is a coffee-lover and has years of experience in and near Italy.

Visiting Europe and want to know how to order a coffee in Italy? Thanks to my life in Spain, I’ve made a lot of Italian friends, allowing me to brush up on my Italian and spend months at a time exploring Italy from top to bottom.

And as a huge coffee lover, I have ordered my fair share of cappuccini! Now I’ll teach you how to easily order a cappuccino or espresso the right way.

Follow these simple steps and Italian phrases to order coffee in Italy like a local!

Italian coffee- espresso
Traditional Italian moka pot and cup of espresso (caffe)

How To Order A Coffee In Italy

You don’t have to speak fluent Italian to order a coffee in Italy!

By following a few simple tips and using basic phrases, you’ll be well-prepared to visit a bar and easily order your preferred coffee.

Step One: Find a bar (yes, a bar!)

Famous coffee shop in Naples, Italy
People drinking coffee at the counter at Gambrinus, in Naples

In Italy, bars are an all-day affair where you can buy both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

So, more often than not, you will visit a bar for coffee in Italy.

To find one, look around for a sign that says “bar” or “caffè” on it. Google Maps will also be helpful in a pinch, but this is Italy and bars are everywhere.

Step Two: Choose your drink

Menu for ordering coffee in Italy
Chalkboard coffee menu in Italy

When ordering, the server at the counter might say something like Mi dica.

This literally translates to “tell me” but in Italian culture it means “What can I get you?”

To this, you can say “un caffè, per favore or “an espresso, please.” You can change the word caffè out for the coffee of your choice, whether it be un caffè lungo or un cappuccino, etc. 

To be more formal you can say “Vorrei un caffè, per favore” which means “I would like an espresso, please.”

👉 Pro TIP When ordering, don’t specify the size of your drink. This is not a thing in Italy!

Step Three: Wait at the counter

Stirring espresso at the counter in Italy
An Italian espresso (caffe)

You will typically order at the counter and wait for your drinks there.

You can enjoy your coffee while standing counter, like many Italians do, or you can take a seat wherever is available.

👉 Pro TIP Coffee is never taken to go here, so I don’t recommend asking!

Plus, it’s a cultural experience to have coffee at a bar in Italy, so enjoy it!

Step Four: Pay the waiter

In Italy, you usually won’t pay up until you are ready to leave the bar – especially if you order at the counter and stay there.

When you’re ready to pay, you can say “quant’è?”, which means “How much is it?”. Most bars will prefer payment in cash.

You don’t need to tip when paying, but if you really want to, you can round up the bill.

Remember to always say thank you before you leave. This is “grazie!

☕ Popular Italian Coffee Drinks

Italians love their coffee!

Italian capuccino - one of the kinds of coffe in Italy

Almost all coffee drinks require an espresso machine, unlike in the US where drip coffee is most popular.

However, if you are visiting an Italian home, you will likely have espresso from a metal moka pot that heats over the stove.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular Italian coffee drinks you can order at the bar in Italy.


One of the most common coffee drinks in Italy is un caffè, which literally translates to “a coffee.” 

If you order un caffè, you will receive a small shot of espresso and nothing more.

Asking for un caffè is popular any time of the day, especially after meals as a digestivo. Even at night!

It is one fluid ounce and it’s usually drunk in just a couple of gulps while standing at the counter of the bar.

When ordering un caffè in Italy, they may respond to foreigners by saying “un caffè normale?”, which is just clarifying that you’d like an espresso. 


The cappuccino is Italy’s most popular coffee drink as long as it’s enjoyed before noon in Italy.

This is a shot of espresso with frothy milk poured over top. It’s usually served in a 6 oz mug. Ordering a cappuccino is typically my favorite choice!

Caffè lungo

If you want Italian coffee similar to American drip coffee, caffè lungo is what you’ll want to order.

This “long coffee” is a lot like an americano, stretching out the espresso with hot water and served in a 4 oz mug.

It will have a subtler flavor compared to a “caffè normale” and can take up to a minute to pull from an espresso machine 

Caffè doppio

If you’d like something extra strong to kickstart your morning in Italy, go with a caffè doppio, a double-shot espress, served in a two-liquid-ounce cup.

Caffè latte

If you like your coffee milkier than a cappuccino, choose un caffè latte. This is simply coffee with hot milk served in an 8 oz mug.

Caffè macchiato

This is a small cup of coffee, likely served in a 2 oz cup, that consists of a shot of espresso and a dollop of steamed milk.

Un caffè macchiato is essentially the only coffee with milk drink that is acceptable to drink outside of breakfast hours in Italy.

Caffè shakerato

Caffe shakerato - a kind of iced coffee- in Italy
Caffee shakerato

If you’re craving iced coffee, caffè shakerato is the best option.

Italians don’t often drink their coffee with ice, but this drink combines espresso, ice, and sugar. It’s then shaken up and then strained into a glass, and resembles an espresso martini.

Helpful Italian Coffee Words And Phrases

These Italian words and phrases will be a huge help when visiting a bar in Italy and ordering coffee.

Buongiorno — Good day or hello

Grazie – Thank you

Ciao or arrivederci – Good bye

Un bicchiere d’acqua, per favore – A glass of water, please

Vorrei un caffè, per favore – I would like an espresso, please

Con caffè doppio – with double espresso

Caldo/Freddo — Hot/Cold

Latte – Milk

Tazza – Cup

Zucchero – Sugar

Un Cornetto or un brioche — Croissant-like pastry (brioche is more common in Northern Italy (Milan, Venice, etc) and cornetto is most common in the south (Rome, Naples, etc)

Un cornetto/brioche vuoto – An empty cornetto/brioche (means a plain croissant, more or less)

Cornetto al cioccolato – A cornetto with chocolate inside

Tavolo – Table

Chair – Sedia

Uno, due, tre – One, two, three

Coffee in Venice, Italy
Coffee in Venice

FAQs – How to order a coffe in Italy

Perfect your coffee order with these common questions about ordering coffee in Italy.

How do Italians order their coffee?

Italians are pretty straightforward when ordering their coffee.

They will often order by saying “ un caffè, per favore” while reading the newspaper or chatting with others at the counter.

How do you ask for regular coffee in Italy?

If you want something similar to American drip coffee, ask for “un caffè lungo”.

What is the most common coffee order in Italy?

The cappuccino is the most common coffee order in Italy. It is most often ordered before noon and never late in the day.

Do you seat yourself at cafes in Italy?

Yes. You will order at the bar and either enjoy your drink there or take a seat at any available table.

Just wait for your order to be ready before going to sit down. Keep in mind, it is most common to stay standing at the bar.

What happens if you ask for a latte in Italy?

Latte translates to “milk” in English!

If you ask for un latte during your travels, the waiter will either clarify if you want a caffè latte or enjoy the chuckle of bringing you a glass of milk.

Does Italy have alternative milks?

It is very uncommon for bars in Italy to serve coffee with alternative milks like soy, oat, etc. It’s most often whole milk.

Do you need to tip when ordering coffee in Italy?

A tip is never expected at a coffee bar in Italy. However, you’re welcome to round up your bill if you’d like.

How much does coffee in Italy cost?

These days, the standard rate for a cup of coffee in Italy is just over €1. It’s unlikely that you’d pay over €1.50 if you are having coffee at an Italian bar.

Do Italians put sugar in their coffee?

Some do, some don’t!

If you want to drink coffee like a local in Italy, the choice is yours. You’ll probably never have to ask for sugar (zucchero) as most bars have cups full of sugar packets all over the counter and tables.

Which city in Italy is known for coffee?

Trieste is known as the coffee capital of Italy. Drinking the local coffee at a historic bar in the Trieste center is one of the best things to do in Trieste and a reason to visit this lovely hidden gem in northern Italy.

Final Thoughts on Ordering Coffee in Italy

Ordering coffee in Italy doesn’t have to be intimidating. Coffee in Italy is a cultural experience you simply can’t pass up!

Have fun practicing these essential Italian phrases during your trip, and order some of the most popular coffee drinks along the way.

Happy travels!