Why (Most) Italians Don’t Drink Cappuccino After 11 am

I receive a lot of worried messages asking me if it is true that Italians NEVER drink cappuccino after 11 am, and what visitors can do if they really want that coffee fix later in the day.

While there is no law in Italy that bans a cappuccino after 11 am, you really won’t find many Italians drinking this milk-heavy coffee after breakfast time.

Coffee on the counter above pastries at Pasticceria Barberini

In Italy, a cappuccino tends to be a drink reserved for the mornings. Italian breakfasts tend to be small and sweet, and the large amount of milk in the cappuccino corresponds to a mini-meal in itself. The heaviness of the cappuccino balances out the rather tiny quantity of food that is usually consumed in the first hours of the day.

Breakfast at casa manfredi Rome

So while you can always find a barista with coffee and milk – the two ingredients they need to make you a cappuccino regardless of the hour- most Italians avoid the drink after lunch. Lunches in Italy are sizeable affairs, so the idea of drinking half a cup of milk after a full meal does not sit well with most locals. In the same way, most Italians would never pair cappuccino with savory food (which tends to be consumed from lunch onwards).

So you don’t need permission to order a cappuccino after 11, and it is not some irrecoverable faux pas. BUT you may raise a few eyebrows or be subject to some good-natured teasing about your coffee preferences if you order the drink after a meal. If you are really concerned about fitting in, then you may want to keep your cappuccino consumption before 11 am.

So what is a milk-loving coffee drinker to do?

If you don’t like espresso on its own, you ask for a caffè macchiato – a coffee with a small dollop of steamed milk. If you want to try something different and delicious, order a marocchino. This is a coffee with a small bit of steamed milk, and chocolate!

close up of italian marocchino coffee cup in glass with layers of chocolate

And if you don’t drink dairy, please know that Italy is a bit behind on the plant milk trends. You can ask for a soy milk cappuccino (cappuccino di soya), and should expect to pay a small fee – like 50 cents more than a regular. Some of Rome’s better specialty coffee bars will have oat milk.

Oh! And don’t order a “latte.” Latte is simply “milk” in Italian, and milk is all you will get. You can instead ask for a “latte macchiato.” This will be a large glass of steamed milk with a few drops of espresso.

Now that you know all about cappuccino do’s and don’ts, here are 10 other habits that make you look like a tourist in Italy

4 thoughts on “Why (Most) Italians Don’t Drink Cappuccino After 11 am

  1. Greg Speck says:

    As usual you bring out the real Rome. When we were in Italy for two months ago, I wa a hero to my wife because I saved your article on a local hairdresser near the Campo de’ Fiore. It was a great recommendation. So many places we have visited that were on your blog have helped us on our Rome travels; Grazie mille Natilie

  2. Stephanie Stippich says:

    Hi Natalie, I have followed you on Instagram for several years now and love your page. Like many others we had to cancel our May 2020 first time trip to Italy, but all is well and this November it’s back on! So I was excited when I came across your Pinterest page. Thank you for these great coffee tips while in Rome and I’m going to explore more of your posts for our upcoming trip.
    Grazie Natalie

  3. Khoi N. Bui says:

    Coming from Asia, I don’t understand the American obsession with dairy products. They want milk and cream in every coffee drink. I often see huge glasses filled with milk topped with cream with a little coffee in it.

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