Paraggi//Crash Course in Italian Cafe Culture

Peaceful Paraggi for a quiet few coffees

My first few days had been enjoyable.

However, after a week spent in the comfortable but rather confined space of my hosts’ terraced home I felt like I needed to get out and spend some time by myself.

The move from England, had taken a bigger toll on my state of mind that I had initially thought. The long frantic drive had left me a bedraggled mess on my friends’ door step still lingered in my head. Plus, I was still waking up with a start most mornings, with the feeling that I was running late for work.

I didn’t like the idea of reforming another routine that I would be stuck in once more. Still, I definitely needed to submerse myself in an environment where I could start to erase the habits and mental pathways that I’d spent the majority of my life building up.

I rose particularly early on Monday morning to the sound of the front door being closed.

Maria had left to teach English down in the local school, Joe would be out on his own errands until the early afternoon. I had the house to myself but I had no intention of staying inside. Outside, the sun was shining with a fervour that I’d not seen since I got here, I decided to go for a drive.

After our trek to Camogli the other day, I had no intention of going back through the hills.

I kept to the coastal roads and found myself in the picturesque bay of Paraggi, desperately in need of coffee. I decided to take a load off at Baya Paraggi, a ludicrously well placed restaurant that looks out onto the crystal blue waters of the Ligurian Sea.

Coffee in Italy is not the overblown flavoured mess you’ll find in the States or back in the UK. Here it is a ritual, with it’s own set of rules that should be followed, if you intend on avoiding any icy glares from your barista.

Here’s a few pointers to help you navigate the exclusive world of Italian Cafes:

Shout it out and pay later.

The first thing you need when entering a restaurant or cafe in Italy, is confidence. Italians are friendly, welcoming but rarely patient. Get your order straight first then say it loudly and clearly. The best baristas are busy and might not reply, don’t be disheartened, they’ll have your order in their head.

Milk is for the morning.

Speaking of orders, you’ll get some strange looks if you choose to order any kind of milk-based drink after 11am. Cappuccino’s are the drink of choice for Italians in the morning, even then they are much smaller than you’d usually get in England, so don’t expect a big beverage.

Keep your order simple.

Although there are variants on the classic Italian coffee, such as the latte macchiato, cafe shakerato and americano – it’s best to stick to the standard drink of choice: A single shot of espresso. Just order ‘un cafe’ and this is what you’ll receive, a quick dose of caffeine that can be downed in a matter of seconds.

No time for a sit down.

Speed is the aim of the game here, so don’t even think about taking a sit down, not only will you get charged more, you’ll also stick out like a sore thumb. The Italian coffee experience is a quick one known as una pausa (literally, a pause or little break). So order your drink, wait, down it, pay, then leave.

Of course, you are completely free to order your coffee whichever way you please.

If, like me, you’re simply looking for a place to sit down and relax; find a restaurant instead of a cafe and order at your leisure.