Coffee in Italy

Katie DePalma (UConn), Anna Gabriel (PSU), Emily Schrock (PSU)
Intercultural Communication Course with Prof. Christian Tarchi

Within two weeks from our arrival in Florence, we have noticed the importance that coffee holds in Italian culture. Coffee is very important in the lives of Americans as well, but in a different fashion. In America, we are accustomed to grabbing a large hot or iced coffee on-the-go before work or school from the local chains of Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. The three of us have to admit that we all suffered a bit of culture shock when we arrived in Florence and realized that not only is there no Starbucks, but that it is also not typical to order a large coffee to-go. We are slowly getting used to the coffee here in Italy, which is much smaller than American coffee but also stronger and bolder. We have ordered coffee “Americano”, which is larger than espresso and cappuccinos and tastes like regular hot coffee in America. However, we have struggled finding regular American “iced” coffee; shops here seem to make it “frozen” or “creamy” which differs from America. We did find “iced coffee” at a small cafe targeted towards Americans, but it was still much creamier and foamier than we are used to in America.

We have found it much more exciting and delicious to stop searching for typical American coffee and embrace the ways of the Italians. We have learned that they typically go to a small cafe in the morning and order a small espresso or cappuccino and drink it in the cafe as part of their “light” breakfast. It seems that small cafes and coffee shops serve a very vital role in the everyday lives of Italians, which explains why Italians are wary of coffee shop chains like Starbucks opening in the city and encroaching upon the small coffee-shop lifestyle. Espresso, which is small, bold, and delicious, is usually ordered after dinner with dessert, which is similar to customs in America. We have personally learned that it is frowned upon to drink a cappuccino after 11:00 AM, which is particularly interesting to us. It seems that Italians have many rules when it comes to their food and drink customs, and if one goes against those rules it can be considered ignorant. Luckily for us, we have found it easy to adapt to Italian coffee customs because the coffee here is particularly delicious. Sitting in small coffee shops and absorbing the unique atmosphere has proven to be a great way to engage in Italian culture, as we have come to understand the vital role of coffee and coffee shops in the Italian lifestyle.