Italians aren’t playing when it comes to coffee.
ariel view coffee and saucer on tray table
Photography by Paola + Murray
| Credit: Photography by Paola + Murray

"There's a formality to coffee culture in Italy," says Heidi Rasmussen, senior manager of education and quality assurance at Illy Caffè North America and an Illycaffe Università del Caffè professor. "The moment is always special—it's not a paper cup and having your name yelled across the café." 

That means no "venti this" or "grande that" (they don't do different sizes or syrups, FYI)—and don't ask for it to go. 

"Baristas treat coffee the same way they treat a cocktail," says Rasmussen. "They'll put up the saucer and the spoon; they're inviting you to enjoy. Stop, breathe, relax. It may be only a few seconds, but it makes all the difference."

So what did I just order?

Drip may be king in the U.S., but in Italy, "if you ask for coffee, you're getting espresso," says Rasmussen. This cheat sheet will help you crack the Italian coffee code.

  • Espresso + steamed milk = MACCHIATO
  • Espresso + liquor = CORRETTO 
  • Espresso + hot water = AMERICANO
  • Espresso + less hot water = RISTRETTO 
  • Espresso + espresso = DOPPIO 
  • Espresso + lemon peel = ROMANO