What is a typical Italian breakfast? Somehow, the first meal of the day remains quite neglected in a country where everybody talks non-stop about food.
That’s why in this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the traditional Italian breakfast and how to enjoy it like a true Italian.
Let me guess… you’ve already booked your trip to Italy and were imagining how you would eat a delicious pizza and pasta when this thought popped up in your mind: but what will I eat for breakfast?
When I first came to Italy, I discovered that breakfast in Italy was quite different from what I was used to. No bacon with eggs, oatmeal porridge, or even omelet.
So, what do Italians eat for breakfast, then? It’s time to find out!
What Is a Typical Italian Breakfast?
Even though every region has specialties, a typical Italian breakfast is a light and predominantly sweet meal.
At first sight, it may seem that it’s… not enough. But trust me, it is! When you order heavy pasta for lunch, you usually thank yourself for not overloading your stomach earlier.
People say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that’s not the case in Italy.
Here, the main goal of breakfast is to launch your metabolism, not to make you full. This is why Italians dedicate little time to breakfast and eat very simple food.
If locals have breakfast at home, they choose between fette biscottate (an American toast) with jam, biscuits, yogurt, milk with cereals, and fruits. For drinks, they have orange juice and a fresh cup of coffee made in Moka.
One interesting fact is that Italians never wash Moka pot with soap. They believe the soap leaves a smell and changes the coffee’s flavor.
Instead, Italians just clean it with water.
So, if by any chance you’ll have to wash Moka in an Italian household, keep this golden rule in mind – no soap!
Italian Breakfast At a Bar
In Italy, it’s common to have breakfast on your way to work. Locals love it because it’s cheap and fast.
You can have breakfast outside in several places: cafeteria, pasticceria, or bar. The main distinction between cafeteria and pasticceria is that the latter is also a bakery.
In both places, people sit at the table and enjoy breakfast without a rush. While people pop by a bar on their way to work and quickly eat their breakfast standing.
In pasticceria and cafeteria you usually order and eat first, and pay before leaving. While in a bar, you pay first, and only after that enjoy your food.
What Pastries Do Italians Eat for Breakfast?
So, what do Italians order for breakfast? Usually, they take a shot of espresso with a pastry and sometimes accompany it with a glass of spremuta (freshly-squeezed orange juice).
The best thing is that it’s really cheap to have breakfast outside. Pastries are from 1-2 EUR; coffee is 1-1.5 EUR.
And the selection! You won’t believe your eyes when you enter the cafeteria or pasticceria. There are so many pastries for any taste! So, if you’re a sweet tooth like I’m, you’ll surely like it.
Here is a selection of my favorite Italian breakfast pastries you should try:
- Cornetto, brioche, croissant. These pastries have different dough ingredients and historical origins. But, to be honest, to me, they look and taste very similar. They can be empty (vuota) or filled with pistacchio, hazelnuts (nocciola), and chocolate (cioccolato) creams. In some bars, you can find pastries cut into half with whipped cream and berries on the top. Yummy!
- Ciambella is a doughnut covered in sugar. It’s soft, airy, and sweet but less sugary than a doughnut with a glaze.
- Pasticcini Mignon is literally a mini cake available in different flavors. They can be with cream, chocolate, berries, and fruits. A perfect option if you want something lighter.
- And who said that you couldn’t find salty options? You sure can! For instance, toast with ham and cheese or focaccia with mortadella.
Italian Coffee Culture
Italians are probably the biggest coffee lovers in the world. They love it so much that asked UNESCO to recognize espresso as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity!
If you’re planning your trip to Italy and want to understand the Italian coffee culture better, here is what you should know.
First, let’s address the debate about a cappuccino. There have been a lot of discussions online about whether Italians drink cappuccinos after 11 a.m.
So, here is the answer: cappuccino is only a morning drink. But there is a reasonable explanation for that.
Milk negatively impacts your digestion after the meal. And Italians prefer to have a shot of espresso instead. That’s also why they order it in a restaurant after dinner.
Second, if you order americano, don’t be surprised when the barista gives you an espresso with a cup of hot water on the side. It’s just how it is here.
Third, when you order a latte, they give you a glass of milk in Italy. So, remember to ask for a caffè latte.
Another thing I would like to highlight is that Italian coffee culture isn’t limited to espresso only! Italian bars have various coffees in their arsenal, and here are some of them:
- Caffè con panna is a coffee with whipped cream.
- Mocaccino is a cappuccino with cream and chocolate.
- Caffè affogato is more like a dessert made of vanilla ice cream and espresso.
- Espressino is an espresso mixed with steamed milk and cocoa powder.
And this list is endless! As you can see, there is a good deal of sweet variations of coffee. And if you’re not a strong espresso fan, you’ll find something for your taste.
Is Italian Breakfast Healthy?
That’s the question, right? As you can see, breakfast in Italy is primarily sweet and can be associated with an unhealthy food routine.
But, according to the OECD, in Italy, only one person in ten has a problem with weight. And that’s a considerably lower indicator compared to other OECD countries.
I would say that everything is about balance. Eating pastries every day is probably a bad idea. But once you do that several times per week, why not?
When I came to Italy for the first time, I couldn’t stop eating pastries for breakfast. They were so delicious! And so cheap! I couldn’t resist!
But when I finally moved to Italy, I discovered I didn’t want them daily. Even though I still have a beautiful tradition of eating freshly baked brioche on the weekend to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Therefore, enjoy every Italian breakfast you can have if you plan to spend a holiday in Italy! Otherwise, if not now, then when?