That coffee is an integral part of Italian culture is certainly no secret.
It is believed that coffee first come to Italy in the 1500s via the Venetian ports through trades with Middle Eastern and African countries. From Venice, coffee then made its way throughout the rest of Europe.
After Pope Clement VIII declared in 1600 that consuming coffee was a very Christian activity, it immediately became popular throughout the peninsular. Still, it took some 45 years for the first coffee house to appear, opening up in Rome in 1645.
Exactly 300 years later, the first espresso machine was developed in Milan, Italy.
Both espresso and cappuccino have since become popular coffee beverages globally.
With regards to coffee consumption in Italy, around 14 billion espressos are consumed annually, making up around 60% of coffee sold in Italy. Less than 15% of coffee drunk in Italy is as cappuccino and only slightly less again as “caffè corretto” (an espresso with a shot of grappa or other liqueur). 1 in 10 coffees are espresso with a dash of milk (“macchiato”).
Cappuccinos and other milky coffees (such as caffè latte – milk with coffee) are typically only served as a breakfast coffee, with Italians considering the heavy and nutrient-rich milk too much for a post-meal beverage. Thus, throughout the day Italians will have an espresso or other lighter coffee.
In homes, Italians typically make their coffee in a stove-top moka.
At breakfast time, Italians may be seen eating pastries and even cereal in a large milky coffee to start their day. Away from home, at a local coffee shop (in Italian, called a “bar”) it is common to have a “brioche” (pastry) with a cappuccino or caffè latte.
After lunch, an espresso will be served, considered as a closure to the meal. Some prefer to have a dash of milk or a spoonful of sugar. They may even have another after dinner.
Having a coffee in Italy is truly a cultural experience not to be missed. Do be aware though that if ordering a coffee at a coffee shop, you will likely be charged table service if you drink it sitting down. Hence why you will likely see Italians standing at the bar to drink their coffees.
In the picture: Eduardo De Filippo in a scene from his "Questi Fantasmi"