Vuoi un caffè? Italy has long been one of the most important players in the coffee culture community. After all, most coffee beverage names are in Italian!
Espresso, latte macchiato, cappuccino…the list of globally popular, authentic Italian coffee beverages goes on and on. Just like America runs on Dunkin’, Italy runs on espresso, as well as other specialty coffee drinks.
This sounds like fantastic news for any coffee lover, right? Like a coffee paradise? In some ways, yes.
However, if you are visiting Italy and crave iced coffee, you’ll be surprised to find out that iced coffee is not served up much at all there. This post is going to break down why that is, and give you your options (and how to order them in Italian.)
Why Is Iced Coffee Hard to Find in Italy?
Italian Bars Have Served the Same Coffee Drinks for Centuries
Frankly, iced coffee just isn’t popular in Italy. Italian coffee culture has developed one shot of espresso at a time over hundreds of years. Coffee is deeply rooted in Italian culture and history, and it is a very big part of a typical Italian person’s social life.
Since old habits are hard to change, “new” coffee beverages haven’t really gained much traction. Italians created espresso, lattes, and cappuccinos and are very happy with them, so why change? Traditional Italian coffee beverages have reigned supreme for centuries.
Italians Like Strong Coffee Flavors
On top of that, Italians are used to very strong coffee flavors. They frequently drink espresso shots, and every coffee beverage in Italy is made with espresso. The concept of adding ice to their coffee – which dilutes it – doesn’t sound appealing to them.
Cold Coffee Is a Foreign Concept to Italians
Additionally, cold coffee just seems like a weird concept to them. I think a comparable example is how in China it is common to sip hot water with meals instead of cold or room-temperature water. In the United States, that seems strange.
This is exactly how Italians feel about cold coffee. Espresso is to be extracted at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit (90 Celsius) for optimal flavor, and it is meant to be consumed directly after extraction. Letting it sit too long to cool down makes it bitter, and for this reason, Italians are used to it being piping hot.
Where Can You Get Iced Coffee in Italy?
You can just go to Starbucks! Just kidding. Starbucks has had a really tough time penetrating the Italian coffee market because of this deeply rooted coffee culture.
While Starbucks prides itself as an Italian-style cafe, the truth is that it really can’t win over the hearts of Italians. Italian people are loyal to their local, smaller coffee shops as well as the main Italian coffee producers, Illy and Lavazza.
Each of Italy’s coffee bars tends to have an allegiance to one of the big coffee providers and only serve up coffee from that company. Some Italians will only go to cafes that serve Lavazza!
Local Italian Coffee Bars Will Probably not Serve Iced Coffee
These local cafes do not serve iced coffee. You will not find it; at least not as you expect. While you may get lucky in touristy areas of Rome and Milan (see below), your odds of finding true iced coffee are slim.
In fact, they’re worse than slim. Because to make iced coffee, you first have to make drip coffee…and they don’t drink that, either. If you want a cold brew, your odds are even worse.
The Best Chance Is to Order an Iced Americano
As a result, you’re left with one option if you’re really craving a cold coffee fix – the iced americano. This is the closest you’ll get, and while the flavor is definitely different from what you’re used to, it is honestly a great drink that you should try!
An americano is just a double espresso and hot water, which is as close as you can get to regular drip coffee in Italy. Every cafe will know how to make one because americanos are pretty common in Italy. They will look at you funny when you ask for it cold, though!
While you could also order an iced latte, I would generally just avoid that one. Iced lattes are actually easier to make than hot lattes, but the barista very well could have no idea what you’re talking about and either really mess it up (but thanks for trying!) or just refuse to even try.
The concept is very foreign to them, and they may have no idea what you want. Anyway, keep reading to learn how to order an iced americano in Italian.
The Other Option Is a Caffè Shakerato
What is a Caffè Shakerato, anyway? This drink is relatively new, but now pretty common to find in an Italian cafe. The caffe shakerato is very simple, yet very delicious.
Making a caffe shakerato is simple. It only involves three ingredients: ice cubes, a bit of sugar, and an espresso shot. These three ingredients are all combined in a cocktail shaker, vigorously shaken for 10-20 seconds, and served in a martini glass.
There are a few different ways that a bar might alter the caffe shakerato, including adding a splash of milk, a bit of chocolate syrup, or even a shot of liquor.
Your only realistic options are an iced americano or a caffè shakerato.
Is There Starbucks in Italy?
Milan is the only exception to the Starbucks struggle. There are four Starbucks (yes, only 4!) in Milan, including one of their esteemed Reserve Roasteries. In fact, I think that visiting the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is one of the best things to do in Milan.
You can find the full gamut (albeit slightly adapted) of Starbucks beverages there, like cold brew and iced coffee, which is great news! However, with the exception of Milan, you will not see any American coffee chains anywhere.
How Do You Order an Iced Coffee in Italian?
If you’ve made it this far, odds are you’re willing to try the iced americano (or you’re just desperate for a caffeine fix and don’t really like hot drinks, like me). The next step is mustering up enough Italian to actually order it.
Luckily, you can get away with using just two words (or 4 if you want to be polite.) Here’s the core Italian coffee vocabulary you’ll need to know!
Important Italian Coffee Vocabulary Words
Caffè – coffee
Latte – milk
Caldo – hot
Freddo – cold
Zucchero – sugar
Tazza – cup
Important Italian Coffee Vocabulary Phrases
You could say:
"Americano freddo" - cold americano
To be more polite, you could say:
"Americano freddo, per favore" - cold americano, please
To sound like you know what you’re talking about, you could say:
"Vorrei un americano freddo, per favore" - I’d like a cold americano, please
And finally, if the barista looks at you funny when you ask for an americano freddo:
"Un americano con ghiaccio" - an americano with ice
Other Popular Italian Coffee Drinks
While you might be dead set on ordering an iced coffee in Italy, there are several other traditional beverages that you should consider trying. Jumping through hoops to get an iced coffee takes a lot of effort, and some of Italy’s best coffee beverages are best served hot. Here are some of the best coffee beverages to try while in Italy.
The caffe latte is exactly what most Americans would just refer to as a latte. This beverage consists of an espresso shot, steamed hot milk, and a thin layer of milk foam on top. It is easily one of the most common coffee beverages in Italy, and can be found all over the world!
The caffe americano is one of the simplest coffee beverages that you can order at an Italian coffee bar. It is simply a doppio espresso topped off with a few ounces of hot water. If you like black coffee, you’d probably like a caffe americano.
A caffe lungo, or long coffee, is a type of espresso shot. Just like espresso, the caffe lungo contains nothing but coffee beans and water. The only difference is that the ratio of water to coffee is higher, resulting in a larger, less concentrated shot.
This type of coffee is a great option if you like strong coffee tastes, but can’t quite handle straight espresso.
The caffe macchiato is basically the same thing as the caffe latte. The only real difference is the order in which the ingredients are combined. Macchiato means “marked” in Italian, and in this case it refers to the brown dot that appears in the center of any latte macchiato.
In a caffe latte, the espresso goes first and the milk goes second. A caffe macchiato is prepared in the opposite order.
Caffe ristretto is the exact opposite of caffe lungo. A caffe ristretto, or short coffee, is a highly concentrated espresso shot. Generally, you can expect it to fill up only half of an espresso cup.
This is a very bitter drink, and it certainly isn’t everyone’s favorite cup of coffee!
Caffè con Panna
Caffè con panna is technically a coffee with cream, although it can look very different all over Italy. In some places, it is an espresso shot or caffè doppio served with whipped cream. In other places, like in Genoa, caffe con panna is a deluxe dessert drink served with whipped cream and a variety of flavors and dessert toppings.
Are There Milk Alternatives in Italy?
Since Italians are very conservative in their coffee tastes, it would make sense to assume that they only use dairy milk to craft their beverages. Fortunately, this is not the case! Most Italian cafes offer soy milk, and some have gotten on the trends of almond milk and coconut milk.
This is especially true in Northern Italy, but can be the case in touristy towns in the south, too. Soy milk is easily the most popular non-dairy option in Italy. In Italian, it is called “latte di soia”.
Hopefully after reading this post you know how to order an iced coffee in Italy! It may be a bit different from what you were hoping for, but I promise that it’ll be great. But hey, if you’re in Italy, it wouldn’t hurt to branch out and try some hot Italian espresso! If you want to try another Italian beverage tradition, make sure you read my post about experiencing Aperitivo in Italy.