Category Archives: Italy

Coffee in Italy

By Laura Hough

Clockwise from top left: a cafe maurochino, a cafe shakirato, a latte, and my empty cup after I couldn't stop drinking the cafe maurochino!

Clockwise from top left: a cafe maurochino, a cafe shakirato, a latte, and my empty cup after I couldn’t stop drinking the cafe maurochino!

I know I already mentioned coffee in one of my posts, but a paragraph doesn’t do Italian coffee justice. Italians love coffee. It completely permeates the culture and they drink it all the time. That being said, there are an awful lot of rules about coffee drinking in Italy. In the U.S., especially on college campuses, you order what you want, when you want it, and then you drink it. One Wednesday night I learned all about drinking coffee in Italy from one of Umbra’s food science professors, and a lot of fun facts about coffee too.

Coffee was originally discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia, who noticed one day that his goats were really hyper after eating some seeds. Somehow, that led to discovering that grinding said seeds and then soaking them in hot water made a delicious drink that would also make humans hyper. Coffee was first commercially grown in Yemen, on the Arabian Peninsula. The Islamic world started drinking it, probably because they don’t drink alcohol, as per the rules of their religion.

Coffee managed to get to Venice, which was a bustling port in the Middle Ages. It was originally sold in pharmacies as a cure-all: If you couldn’t sleep, drink some coffee. If you couldn’t stay awake, drink some coffee. If you had stomach pains, drink some coffee. It got so popular that even a pope weighed in, and said it was OK for Christians to drink coffee.

Fast forward to modern Italy. Coffee, and I mean great coffee, is on every street corner, available in every bar and café. They call it some different names, though, so if you’re ordering coffee in Italy, keep these tips in mind:

Un café” will get you a shot of espresso. I am not a fan — it’s strong and dark and bitter, and makes me want to gag. It’s also only about a shot’s worth of coffee.

Un café Americano” will get you a watered down espresso. It’s as close to a regular cup of coffee as it gets, and then you can add sugar.

Don’t make the mistake of ordering “un latte,” because you will get a funny look, and then receive a warm cup of milk. That’s what latte is in Italian — milk.

Instead, you either want a “un latte machiato” or “un café macchiato.” “Macchia” is Italian for stain, so when you order “un latte machiato,” you get milk with a stain of coffee, while “un café macchiato” is coffee with a stain of milk.

You can also order a cappuccino in Italy, but only do so in the mornings for breakfast. The Italians believe that the milk will fill you up, so you don’t want to drink it after noon, otherwise you won’t be hungry. Fun fact about a cappuccino: It’s named after the capuchin monkey, the black and white creature from South America. Those were named after an order of monks, known as Capuchin. These monks wore a black and white hood, and a cappuccino, with espresso, then milk, and then the foam on top sort of resembles a capuchin monkey.

Another excellent coffee drink is “un café shakirato.” It’s a shot of espresso, lightly sweetened and shaken with ice until it’s all foamy on top. It’s delicious. Unfortunately, if you order one in the wintertime, you will receive odd looks, because the Italians believe if you drink something chilly in the winter, you will die. I’m thinking about doing it anyway, because it’s delicious.

The last drink I have for you is called “un café maurochino.” It’s a coffee in a glass rimmed in cocoa powder. It’s also quite delicious, and perfectly acceptable to drink in the winter because it’s hot. Mine was the perfect balance of coffee and chocolate flavor.

But, even with all the variations, my Italian friends told me, “If you don’t like espresso, you don’t like coffee.” I’m definitely still working on drinking espresso like a real Italian (no sugar, no cream), but I’m really enjoying it all. And hopefully, when you get to Italy, you will manage to order exactly what you want!

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Roma: La Cittá Eterna

By Laura Hough

The second weekend in Italy, I went to Rome with three other girls from my program. Rome is a 2-3 hour train ride from Perugia, and we left at 7 a.m. This was my first experience on the Italian train system, and I was really glad one of the girls I was with had done it before. For a regional train, you don’t even have to buy your tickets early. Just check times online, then get there about half an hour ahead to purchase the ticket. We did make a little mistake — online, tickets were from 9 euro, and we ended up paying 19 euro. We were, however, on a nicer (read: quieter and smoother) train with plugins and comfy seats. Our train ride home on Sunday was much cheaper, but a lot noisier and less comfy. For Italian trains, always, always, always remember to validate your ticket — you do it after you purchase it, in a little machine in the station or out by the tracks. If you don’t, you get a fine. In Rome, we saw St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, and the Borghese Gallery, where many of Bernini’s sculptures are housed. Unfortunately, it was a little rainy, so that definitely dampened our spirits, as well as kept us from doing more of the outdoor activities. We still had excellent pizza and bruschetta one night, and some delicious gelato as well. I really liked Rome, and I can’t wait to visit again. It’s definitely at the top of my list of amazing cities so far. Hope you enjoy my pictures!

St. Peter's Basilica is breathtaking! Even the pictures don't do it justice. Definitely a must-see in Rome, in Italy, in the world.

St. Peter’s Basilica is breathtaking! Even the pictures don’t do it justice. Definitely a must-see in Rome, in Italy, in the world.
We climbed to the top of the cupola, and saw the entire city laid out below us. Definitely worth the 5 euro and 500 steps.

We climbed to the top of the cupola, and saw the entire city laid out below us. Definitely worth the 5 euro and 500 steps.

My favorite picture so far- a night shot of the basilica.

My favorite picture so far- a night shot of the Basilica.

Every where I went in Rome, I felt like everything I saw was ancient. These ruins (which, my apologies, I have no idea what they're called) were in a  piazza surrounded by shops.

Every where I went in Rome, I felt like everything I saw was ancient. These ruins (which, my apologies, I have no idea what they’re called) were in a piazza surrounded by shops.

The Vatican Museum has a whole room dedicated to vehicles the Pope has ridden in through history. This was my favorite.

The Vatican Museum has a whole room dedicated to vehicles the Pope has ridden in through history. This was my favorite.

The famous statue is in the Vatican Museum. I'm not very well informed on the subject of art history, but even I recognized this.

The famous statue of “The Thinker” is in the Vatican Museum. I’m not very well informed on the subject of art history, but even I recognized this one.

Positives and negatives

By Laura Hough

Despite Italy being a Western European country, there are some differences that seem pretty strange when you first arrive. A few examples:

  • Energy (electricity) in Italy is much more expensive, so they don’t use as much here. That means only keeping the heat in your apartment on for about seven hours a day. This makes your apartment pretty chilly.
  • Most Italians also don’t have dryers, because of the energy cost. My jeans took a week to dry in the chilly damp weather. That was a little bit of a setback for me.
  • Pizza is everywhere here. It’s acceptable to grab some “al taglio” (by the slice) or “da porta via” (literally, ‘to take to the street’) at lunch, dinner or anytime in between. Pizza is usually eaten with a fork and knife though, especially at dinner.
  • Italians eat late, by American standards. Most places don’t open for dinner until 7:30 p.m., and don’t get busy ’til 8:30 p.m.
  • Italians have excellent coffee  I mean way better than Starbucks coffee. But be careful when you’re ordering  “un café” will get you a shot of espresso, not a cup of coffee. “Un caffe americano” is a little closer  it’s basically watered down espresso, which is more like a cup of joe from Starbucks. But don’t order “un latte” unless you enjoy drinking warm milk!

Most of the differences are small, but they start to add up, especially when you add the language barrier. I’m really glad I knew some Italian coming in, because otherwise it might have been too overwhelming, instead of a (mostly) interesting challenge. It’s handy to know some food words, like when you’re at the grocery store or ordering at a restaurant. And just about the time you think you’re getting the language, someone speaks really quickly and you don’t catch any of it.

It gets a little frustrating. The best way to look at it, I’ve decided, is to concentrate on why I decided to come — to experience a new culture and learn the language. If everything here was the same as it was back home, then studying abroad wouldn’t really have a point, would it? Staying positive is difficult when you just want to microwave the tea, instead of boiling the water on the stove and waiting and waiting for it to get hot enough, or you just want some French onion dip to go with your chips. It’s even more difficult when people around you insist on being negative about the differences.

It’s definitely up to you, though. I have had to make a conscous decision and effort to embrace the differences, and take them as adventures, not awful experiences. Those are the reasons I came, after all. I think this attitude will get me a lot further and give me better experiences than being angry. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Ciao, ciao from Perugia!

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Perugia in Pictures

This gallery contains 8 photos.