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 an on. Just like America runs on Dunkin’, Italy runs on espresso.
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 an 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?
Frankly, iced coffee just isn’t popular in Italy. Italian coffee culture is extremely deeply rooted. Coffee is deeply rooted into Italian history and culture, 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?
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. 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. As an American, that seems strange to me. Wherever you’re from, does it feel kind of weird?
This is exactly how Italians feel with 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 they 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 cafe 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!
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 cold brew, your odds are even worse.
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 espresso shots 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. While iced lattes are actually easier to make than hot lattes, 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 because they have no idea what you want. Anyway, keep reading to learn how to order an iced americano in Italian.
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.)
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
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.