Our tours take us all over Europe, from Gran Canaria, to Belgium, to the Pyrenees, but Italy is La Fuga’s spiritual home. Whenever we set foot across the border onto Italian soil we know there’s one thing we can always rely on – great coffee.
Pull over to a any roadside café in Italy and you can be assured of a rich shot of the black stuff. Cross the border into France and my-goodness, you can get the smoothest coffee you have dreamt of or a mug of dishwater. (Sorry France, but it’s true).
Back in January we sought out our favourite cafe stops, from local stop, G!ro Cycles to the Rifugio Bonetta, at the top of the Passo Gavia. This week, with two Italians working in our office, a director who is fluent in the language and a permanent base in Bergamo, it was the perfect opportunity to ask our colleagues to bring you a quick shot of Italian coffee culture. Here’s their words of wisdom on understanding coffee the Italian way:
What you have to understand it that coffee is a ritual for Italians. We’re all creatures of habit but Italians pay a very particular attention to the detail. This isn’t just as case of going to the same Costa Coffee every morning.
As an Italian, your bartender (Yes, your bartender. You go to your chosen bar every morning, and you get your coffee done by the same specific bartender, getting someone else to do it will alter its taste) will greet you rhetorically: “the usual?”. Just like the good barman at the pub, they’ve already anticipated your order when you stroll through the door. Coffee is about relationships as much as it is about coffee.
It is utterly true that every Italian customizes their coffee; I am not talking about just the strength and consistency of the coffee itself, but also about it’s temperature and even the size and material of the coffee cups (many Italians specifically ask for glass cups with silver grip instead of ceramic cups).
Basic Coffee Types:
- Caffé = espresso
- Caffé macchiato (caldo o freddo) = espresso with a spot of cold or hot milk
- Caffé corretto = coffee with a shot of spirits (ex. Sambuca)
- Caffé lungo = weak espresso
- Caffé ristretto = strong espresso
- Montebianco = espresso with milk, cream and chocolate on top
- Cappuccino = weak coffee with hot milk and cream (never order after 11am)
- Latte = hot milk with a spot of coffee
- Caffé latte = half mug of coffee, half of hot milk
- Americano = black coffee (locals never order)
If you thought Americans liked their customizations, try understanding an Italian order. You can combine all the different types of coffee to create your personal one, so you might bump into someone asking for:
“un doppio caffé corretto macchiato caldo in tazza di vetro grande con cioccolato bianco”
This of course translates to:
“a double espresso with a spot of hot milk and cream and a shot of spirit, in medium sized glass mug with white chocolate on top”.
Thankfully the Italians do the simple things very well too. (Not just their coffee but their wonderful food too.) We’ll leave the complicated orders to the locals unless you feel like testing your La Fuga guide next time you’re out on the road!
The final tip of the day is to remember that, in Italy, taking your coffee and pastry standing at the bar is always cheaper than sitting down. An espresso is cheap (depending on which city you are in prices vary from around €1.00 – €1.25) but as soon as your rear hits the cushion, you’ll get hit with a service charge. If you’re out on a ride, do like the locals, keep your visit short, get your hit, refuel and get back on the road before the legs settle into relaxation mode. Ciao Regazzi!