Thursday, December 7, 2023

A Lesson in Italian Cafe Etiquette: The Reason You Won’t Find Lattes on Every Menu

by Mads

Why not to order latte in Italy?

If you’re a coffee lover planning a trip to Italy, you may have heard that ordering a latte in an Italian cafe could get you strange looks or even prompt a warning from the barista. So what’s the deal with lattes in Italy? Why are they not as popular as they are in other countries? Let’s dive into a lesson in Italian cafe etiquette and discover the reasons behind this phenomenon.

The Culture of Italian Cafes

Before we delve into the latte dilemma, it’s essential to understand the significance of cafes in Italian culture. For Italians, cafes are not merely a place to grab a quick cup of coffee; they’re a hub for socializing, relaxing, and enjoying life. Cafes often have a charm of their own, adorned with classic decor, elegant furnishings, and busy waiters. This atmosphere is a part of the Italian experience that most visitors can’t afford to miss.

What is a Latte?

In most countries, a latte is a simple espresso mixed with steamed milk and a layer of frothed milk on top. Lattes in Italy are nothing like that. In Italy, a cafe latte is just a glass of milk and espresso means a shot of espresso. If you order a latte in Italy, you’re likely to get a glass of milk, and if you’re lucky, the waiter might bring an espresso shot on the side.

The Italian Way of Drinking Coffee

As mentioned earlier, cafes in Italy are a place to socialize and enjoy life. Italians prefer their coffee short, strong, and standing up at the bar. You won’t find a single Italian sitting down with a mug of coffee, browsing on their phone or reading the newspaper. Italians drink their coffee fast, savoring its bitter taste and the ambiance of the cafe. A latte is not a part of this Italian coffee culture since it is considered a heavy and filling beverage.

The Cost Factor

Another reason behind the absence of lattes in Italian cafes is the cost factor. In most Italian cafes, the price of coffee is significantly lower if you drink it at the bar and self-service. However, once you sit down at a table, the prices increase. If every Italian ordered a latte and sat down, the cafe would need more space and servers, leading to increased costs. Therefore, it’s more profitable for Italian cafes to focus on selling short shots of espresso than lattes.


In conclusion, ordering a latte in an Italian cafe is indeed not recommended. If you’re looking precisely for that milk and espresso combination, you’re better off ordering a cappuccino. Cappuccinos, like lattes, are a combination of espresso and milk, but they also have a layer of frothed milk on top. Italian cafes serve cappuccinos in the morning, and they’re not too heavy for caffeine addicts. However, it’s essential to remember that the best way to experience Italian cafe culture is by integrating with the locals and learning the Italian way of drinking coffee. After all, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

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