Updated 2018. This is an excerpt from our ebook 31 Mistakes Not to Make When You Travel to Italy – free when you become a member of the Dream of Italy website/award-winning print newsletter!
At an Italian bar (the term is universally used in Italy to describe what Americans would call a cafe: small establishments where customers can order coffee, pastries, panini and sometimes gelato), patrons pay before ordering, rather than upon receiving coffee or a pastry.
To avoid confusion, first pay for what you want at the cassa (cash register) and then show your receipt to the barista, who will tear your receipt (lo scontrino) and fulfill your order. Then, carry your items to a standing spot at the bar, as many places will have separate, higher prices for table service (detailed as banco, or standing, versus tavolo, or table service on the menu). Most locals drink their coffee while standing at the bar, but if you opt to sit down, you can expect a waiter to come by and take your order.
Plus, don’t miss this mistake with public fountains in Italy.