What to expect for breakfast in Italy? The common Italian colazione is much simpler than a traditional English or American breakfast. However, we should distinguish between a typical Italian breakfast at home and the meal you can enjoy at a bar, café or bistro.
Usually, breakfast in Italy is short and sweet and includes coffee or cappuccino as a drink accompanied by some baked goods.
It might come as a surprise that even though in Italy meals are such a pivotal moment and Italians like to take their time to enjoy their lunch or dinner, breakfast is a much quicker routine. It’s not uncommon for Italians to just take their morning espresso standing at the counter and carry on with their day.
What do Italians eat for breakfast?
What’s a typical Italian breakfast? While “cappuccino e cornetto” (croissant in Italian) might sound like the most common first meal of the day at an Italian bar, a typical Italian breakfast varies a lot, both at the bar and at home. From different types of coffee to fresh juice to toasted bread with homemade jam and butter to porridge and muesli, Italian breakfast is diverse, colorful and makes everyone happy.
Do Italians have cake for breakfast? Yes, typically Italians have a sweet breakfast so from time to time they can also have cake or cookies in the morning, better if homemade. Usually, Italians do prefer homemade cakes and tarts such as apple pie, lemon cake or topped with jam such as the delicious tart with ricotta and visciole (sour berries), typical from Rome.
Even though I prefer a savory breakfast, when I make a cake (usually healthy and sugar-free), I like to have it for breakfast with a cup of green tea.
Typical Italian breakfast at an Italian bar
A typical Italian breakfast at a bar can simply involve a cappuccino and croissant. Depending on the bar, there are plenty of types of coffee you can order in Italy. Some of the alternative drinks you can find are cappuccino made with soy milk and regular coffee or ginseng coffee, several types of coffee, caffellatte which is milk with some coffee (if you ask for a “latte” you will be given a cup with only milk), marocchino (coffee with milk and chocolate) and mocaccino (coffee with milk cream) and tea.
Cafes usually have also juices and smoothies, along with a larger list of teas. Different regions in Italy, different food traditions. In Turin, for example, you can order the traditional bicerin coffee with milk cream.
Most Italians have also something to eat with their drink, and at a bar or coffee shop, you can choose from several pastries, cookies, and pieces of cake and tarts. Obviously, a café or a bistro will have a bigger choice than a bar and you can really go crazy with your croissant with plenty of versions such as vegan, wholegrain, empty or filled with cream, chocolate, jam, or honey.
How do you order breakfast in Italy?
If you are at a bar, you can either have your breakfast at the counter or sit at a table. In the historic center of the larger cities, a coffee at the counter is priced the same everywhere, while if you sit at one of their tables, they can charge whatever fee they want.
Usually, you have a look at the offer, you decide what to have, you pay first and then you head to the counter and order showing the receipt. If you want to grab a table, a waiter often comes to take the order. In this case, when they bring you your breakfast, they also leave the receipt with which you can go pay at the cashier at the end.
At a coffee shop, you will usually grab a table so you can also pay at the end before leaving. Normally, a coffee shop has a wider choice of pastries and baked goods. However, if the bar is large and has tables (at least more than one or two), it will also have quite a good range of options.
Make sure you read our article on the dos and don’ts of eating in Italy.
Traditional Italian home breakfast
At home, Italians have the most diverse breakfasts. From porridge with or without fresh fruits to homemade pancakes and cakes to yogurt, usually, Italians have also something to eat together with their morning coffee. A pretty common breakfast is also bread, often toasted, sometimes whole-grain, with a spread of butter and jam, preferably homemade with seasonal fruit. Some also buy specific Italian breakfast biscuits, especially for kids, that you can easily find in every supermarket.
At home, we rarely have a croissant, this is a treat we allow ourselves when we go out for breakfast or when we are traveling.
Some Italians like even savory breakfasts, and I’m one of them. I don’t eat much for breakfast because I feel like starting to eat gradually after hours of night fasting. But I still have a substantial first meal of the day and it’s usually savory, including a slice of toasted rye bread or regular whole-grain wheat bread with a cream made with miso and tahini or miso and peanut butter.
Sometimes, I make myself porridge with whole-grain oat flakes with fresh fruits and some nuts or soy yogurt, and sometimes, I make my own pancakes without sugar, sweetened with dried fruits such as dates, plums or raisins. Usually, I drink green or black tea instead of coffee. Yes, I’m Italian! And yes, my Afghan husband drinks coffee instead of tea.
On a traditional Italian breakfast, at home we also have coffee, sometimes espresso sometimes made with the Moka pot, barley coffee, usually instant, or tea. Kids usually have milk with either Orzoro (soluble barley coffee) or Nesquik (soluble chocolate) and Italian breakfast cookies. Supermarkets usually have entire shelves full of breakfast biscuits for all tastes and preferences.
When we travel, we relax a bit to have a delicious Italian cornetto or piece of cake, and my husband from time to time enjoys an English breakfast with eggs and bacon.
What’s the breakfast at hotels and B&Bs in Italy?
Italian breakfast foods at B&Bs include packaged cakes, croissants or fette biscottate (rusks) as well as single-dose jams, honey and Nutella, but often also delicious homemade cakes.
Since B&Bs are usually properties where the owner lives, the local family prepares traditional Italian breakfast recipes including cakes, cookies and jams. B&B owners sometimes allow guests to make their own coffee or tea, while sometimes they prepare them themselves.
On the other hand, when booking a hotel, the Italy breakfast menu you can expect is quite richer and diverse. At a 4 or 5-star hotel, you can expect a buffet breakfast that includes both sweet and savory options.
So from all types of Italian breakfast pastries to English and American treats such as muffins, waffles, and pancakes, to toasted bread to accompany cheese, cured meat, scrambled eggs with bacon, and even smoked salmon in higher-end hotels. It’s not uncommon to find also oat flakes, muesli or granola to eat with milk (cow or vegetable) or yogurt.
Drink-wise, you can order the usual coffee, cappuccino, caffè latte, hot chocolate, tea, and juices.
For example, our breakfast at 4-star Grand Hotel in Trento city center featured a huge buffet showcasing just about everything from fresh fruits, yogurt, muesli, seeds, scrambled eggs and bacon, all types of pastries and all types of drinks.
Do Italians have eggs for breakfast?
The typical Italian breakfast doesn’t involve eggs or eggs and bacon. At home, Italians will have a lighter breakfast while at the bar they might add a croissant. Good hotels across the country, however, often offer eggs and bacon.
In larger cities, you can find places for a more abundant breakfast offering also savory options. One of our favorite stops in Rome is Coromandel. We go there on a weekend or really when we want to have a treat as they offer large breakfast platters including fried eggs and bacon, pancakes, toasts, scrambled tofu, and more.
What is a continental breakfast in Italy?
By continental breakfast, in Italy, we mean a buffet including pastries, bread, cereals, milk, yogurt, and a choice of drinks such as tea or coffee.
What time do Italians eat breakfast?
Italians eat breakfast as soon as they wake up. Before doing anything else, we need our morning coffee. Until a few years ago, I didn’t have coffee for breakfast, and still now I don’t drink it every day. When I don’t have coffee, I have my tea after I eat.
Some Italians cherish the moment of their breakfast at the bar so this is where they do it every day, also to avoid wasting time at home. Breakfast at the bar in Italy usually happens between 7 and 10 am. After 10 am, we call it brunch, snack, coffee break, but not really breakfast, and while we do order a coffee up until around 11 am, we rarely have a cappuccino.