The Coffee Culture in Florence

Jul 20, 2022 4:00:00 PM / by Maya Tolerico

In her first post about study abroad life in Florence, Maya Tolerico gives us a crash course on the coffee culture in Italy. Get the dish on how to differentiate between beverages, avoiding faux pas, and putting in your order the right way. 

Hearing things about the coffee culture in Italy before arriving was very nerve wracking. The fear of doing something wrong, embarrassing myself, or causing difficulty for the workers at coffee establishments was very real. Now that I have arrived and have gotten coffee a multitude of times, I can share my tips to make the experience as painless as possible.

To begin, most places to get your coffee are called “bars”. I have noticed that some bars have bottles of alcohol behind the counter, but a coffee bar is similar to a café and they tend to have pastries as well. Coffee bars are meant to be places where you sit at a table or stand at the counter to enjoy your coffee and/or pastry. While you can get them to go, it is not very common and they may charge you extra for the to-go cup. The coffee and pastries in Italy are very affordable and Italians tend to stick with sweeter pastries. Big breakfasts are not a thing in Italy unless you find a more American style diner or restaurant. The average amount I have spent on both a cappuccino and croissant is about €2.50-€3.50, so anything above that is typically overpriced. 

If you usually order an iced coffee at home, or order coffee with milk after noon, people may find that strange here. Iced coffee is very hard to find in Florence, some places may offer cold coffee but without ice, and even that is rare. With the large number of tourists coming to Florence, some coffee bars have started to offer iced coffees, but smaller local places will not. Italians tend to avoid drinking milk after lunch so ordering caffé lattes is not normal after breakfast. Notice how in my last sentence I called it a CAFFÉ latte. If you order just a latte in Italy, the word latte just means milk so that is what they will give you. A caffé latte is coffee with milk.

Cold Pistachio Latte and Savory Croissant Sandwich at a cafe in Florence

Caption: A cold pistachio latte and savory croissant sandwich.

Many coffee bars will try to take advantage of tourists especially around the tourist sites like the Duomo. If you sit outside at many places they will consider this table service and charge you as such. The way I have typically seen service work is you order your pastry over the pastry case and then order your coffee at the coffee counter. You can either pay immediately or wait until you are finished and then pay. I have also seen places where you pay at a cash register first. In this case you tell the cashier what you want, pay, and then pick up your coffee and pastry at their respective counters with your receipt.

Cappuccino and chocolate croissant from the cafe next to Duomo

Caption: A cappuccino and chocolate croissant from the cafe next to the Duomo.

A chocolate croissant and cappuccino

Caption: A cappuccino and chocolate croissant from a different cafe outside of the Duomo.

I highly recommend you find a local coffee bar near your apartment to go to for a quick coffee, but try to be adventurous and try as many new bars as you can during your stay. Finding small, tucked away coffee bars can not only find you better prices, but also much less crowded, comfortable environments. With a little bit of practice you will start to feel like a pro in no time!

A chocolate croissant and Cappuccino from BEN Cafe in Florence

Caption: A chocolate croissant and Cappuccino from BEN Cafe, a small local cafe.

Thanks, Maya!

Maya Tolerico

Maya Tolerico is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2022, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Global Management, Supply Chain Management, and Business Information Systems major from University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.

Maya's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.


Topics: Florence, Italy, Food Abroad, Local Culture