2. Croissant and cappuccino

cappuccio e brioche
A classic croissant and cappuccino at the bar

The breakfast in Italy:

In Italy you can joke about everything with the exception of three things: the mother, the favorite sport team and cooking. The Italian cuisine is loved and envied around the world, but considering pasta and pizza many people underestimate an essential and distinctive Italian meal that distinguishes them: the breakfast. It’s a crucial moment because it’s the first food intake following an overnight fast and then has to provide quick energy to face the new day. In contrast to the breakfast of northern Europe (so called “international“) which presents very high calorie and salty foods like eggs, cheese, ham and butter accompanied by tea or a fruit juice, in Italy (and France) the “continentalsweet breakfast dominates: croissants, bread and jam / chocolate, biscuits, pastries and cakes, together with coffee, white coffee or tea are the protagonists of laid tables of houses throughout Italy. However if you want to enjoy breakfast at its highest level there are exceptional places where to go: bars.

SICILY, showcase full of pastries in a pastry-bar

The ritual of breakfast at the bar:

The bar is the heart of every Italian town: there is no place where – besides the church and the main square -there is no bar.  Here every day from 6:00 am to 10:00 am people of all ages begin a whirling dance in and out of its doors to have breakfast. In fact, if someone allows himself to eat breakfast at the bar only in days off, there are many people that every single day are at the lunch counter. It’s a kind of daily ritual: same time, same identical order, exactly the same table; it often happens that’s a meeting place with partner or friends: “See you at the bar” is the beginning of every nice day. The absolute protagonist is the frothy cappuccino, sometimes decorated like a work of milk art, probably invented in Vienna but that during the twentieth century has become an emblem of Italianity; to accompany it can not miss a croissant (in Italy also called “cornetto” or brioche depending by latitude) with distinctive crescent-shape, or even better pastries (or “paste” as they are called in Southern Italy). Colorful and delicious, hand-made in a thousand of different forms, the pastries are a pleasure for the palate and specialties and tastes change depending on the Italian regions: sometimes cream and chocolate prevail, sometimes ricotta or mascarpone… However, their sweetness is overwhelming!

roma bar a trastevere2
ROMA, an open air bar in Trastevere

The best way to feel Italian:

Sitting at a table of a bar or simply leaning on the counter, you can appreciate and experience the real Italian life, especially in a small town. You can attend what looks like a movie scene: hearing small talk of the people coming in and out, their problems and their joys, shrill voices of children or slow proverbial words of the elderly, interspersed by moments of silence when they relish a cappuccino or taste a croissant. Replicating all this personally – with the greatest calm – is the best way to feel Italian, even better if at the bar Giolitti in Rome,  at the historic Caffé Florian or at Harry’s Bar in Venice, at Camparino in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, or in a small town of Tuscany or Southern Italy. Spending time talking to a waitress – if possible – to ask questions, any must-see destinations or restaurants, will make it even more pleasant.

In short, breakfast of your hotel may be more comfortable and plentiful, but there is no better way to feel like Italian and breathe the life of a town or an Italian city than getting in touch with their citizens. Undoubtedly having breakfast at the bar is the easiest way to do this.


1. The famous happy hour of Milan

MILAN, nightlife at Aperol Terrace

How Milanese people are:

The people of Milan are elusive and pragmatic, always rushing, always busy, always on the phone. Capital of fashion and finance, indeed Milan is a very active city, with a look definitely turned to Europe and to the future. All international trends and fashions pass from Milan before being reached in Italy: first music, low-rise jeans and leggings, then facebook, finally car-sharing… The Milanese express themselves with a mixed Italian and English language:  it’s not the old dialect,  but neologisms or international words as “brunch“, “training“, “call“;  even a new quarter of the city is called “CityLife” in English! For the people of Milan past doesn’t matter, their interest is only focused on the future: weekend out-of-town to spend every damn week during the warm season (perhaps at Curmayeur or Forte dei Marmi), the holiday to get away from office in August, the evenings to arrange during the week. The most important thing is to get out of house: the Milanese – quoting Aristotle – are the social animal par excellence, they can not miss any event (or “happening” as they call them) !

L'aperitivo milanese
MILAN, Naviglio Zone: Naviglio Grande at dusk.

Where to find Milanese people:

During the day it’s almost impossible to talk to anyone, they are too busy “a lavurà” (to work) and – when they take a break – don’t want to be disturbed. At most, you can find them on their lunch break to eat a pizza at Spontini or a “panzerotto” at Luini next to the Duomo.  In the evening, as mentioned, that the Milanese people do the lion’s share: there is no festivity or event, of any religion may be, to which they can be missing, even the Buddhist night of the lanterns “is a must” !  Their favorite places have to be exclusive: a restaurant to eat sushi (“the top of the top”, as they would say), a party to sip champagne or a drink on the Aperol Terrace at the Duomo, the columns of San Lorenzo or nearby the Arco della Pace. But certainly the peculiar and unique place that every Milanese has to hang out are the Navigli zone: it’s between these crowdy streets that you can enjoy the Movida of Milan (even more so after the Darsena requalification), from dusk till late night. This distinctive place perfectly embodies the worldliness of the Milanese people and their temperament. Who want to feel Milanese, even just for one night, must come here.


The happy hour of Milan:

Just out of the office, the Milanese are unleashed and consequently the ritual par excellence is the aperitif, pivotal point in the day. To celebrate the “daily liberation” they meet friends or colleagues at the usual bar, which everyone considers the best one around. Given that Milanese people are exaggerated by nature, it often happens that the aperitif is prolonged for hours, replacing the dinner completely instead of introducing it. For this they don’t use the term “happy hour” – too banal and passed – but the most pompous “aperi-cena” (aperi-dinner), a neologism coined ad hoc but that fits perfectly. In fact, every perfect Milanese doesn’t hesitate to let loose between 18:00 and 21:00 in front of the wide selection of food located on the bar, tasting pizzas and sandwiches, salami and cheeses, pasta and panini (usually all buffet service), always with a faithful cocktail in hand, Negroni or Spritz that it is. Especially for a tourist, it is the most genuine and practical way to discover a (small) part of Italian cuisine. As the Milanese are always careful to the wallet in an expensive city like Milan, the aperitif is also definitely cheap compared to a dinner in a restaurant: the food is free and the bill is calculated per drink, that usually costs around 10€ and that’s not bad !

In short, the famous “Milanese happy hour” is certainly the best way to experience the life of Milan and for a few days become an inhabitant of the city of fashion.