Welcome to Italy: 20 regions and more than 8,000 towns and cities peppered across a country that features endless distinctions, from north to south, east to west. In essence, it's Italy’s variety that makes it so breath-taking and greatly loved.
There's a kaleidoscope of different cultures and traditions to be found, all of which are reflected in the coffee Italians drink every day.
To answer this question we must return to 1683, the year that Vienna was liberated from the Ottomans (thanks to a coalition with the Venetian Republic).
When they fled, the Ottomans abandoned about 500 bags of coffee.
As a result, coffee started to flow around the canals of Venice and, from there, around the entire country.
This is why coffee in Venice tends to be well-rounded and aromatic, with notes of an oriental vanilla fragrance - it reflects years of history and tradition.
Coffee in Milan, on the other hand, is quite different: Milan is a high-speed, functional and pragmatic city, and, almost for the sake of consistency, the coffee has to be light, delicate and fine. It becomes a ritual that people allow themselves in the morning, before going to the office. Quickly, but devotedly, they are wrapped up in their visit to the café counter.
On the other hand, the ruggedness of the territory and the difficulties caused by the World Wars developed sensory expectations that the inhabitants of the Piedmont and Liguria regions could easily satisfy with sweet, delicate and elegant flavours. To them, coffee was primarily a small pleasure to enjoy with guests.
In 1938, Achille Gaggia invented a new lever extraction system, and so a new way of drinking coffee was created in Modena. A thicker and more aromatic crema could be crafted, which holds the sugar for a few seconds before enveloping it completely and pulling it along, in a slow and fascinating dance.
It would be impossible to speak of coffee in our country without mentioning the Neapolitan "tazzulella 'e cafè". Intense, dark, persistent, short: it is due to these notes that the Neapolitan espresso has become a worldwide ambassador for Italian quality and style.
But the differences don’t end here: there are also variants in the nomenclature. In fact, the Milan "Marocchino" is called a "Bicerin" in Turin, and becomes an "Espressino" in Puglia.
But the undisputed queen of creativity in terms of names is Trieste.
If you want an espresso coffee at the café, you have to ask for a Nero, but if you want an espresso in a small glass, you have to approach the counter confidently and ask for a "Nero in B".
Capo is a coffee macchiato (espresso with a splash of frothed milk) in a cup, which becomes a Capo in B if asked for in a small glass. The cappuccino is the Caffellatte. It’s no surprise if your "A coffee, please" is met with a “What did you say you'd like?”
In our journey through Italy’s regions, each city has proven to have a definite identity, adapting coffee to its own way of interpreting the flavour. It is for this reason that each regional coffee mirrors a culture and embodies the distinctive features of a city or region.
And so there is far more than a simple “coffee” behind each flavour, and behind each name. Whether this be an espresso, a Bicerin or a Nero in B.