For us Italians, espresso is more than a drink; it’s a moment of pure pleasure. You’ll often see us savoring our daily shot with closed eyes, relishing in the moment.
There is no simple answer to the question of how Italians prefer their espresso. If you were to watch four Italians ordering their daily espresso at a bar, you would notice that each of them requests a different type of coffee. They may ask for differences in temperature, quantity, brewing process, or ingredients.
To help you understand the basics of Italian espresso culture, here is a brief menu, which you can use to try different varieties and find your favorite espresso. It might even inspire you to plan your next trip to Italy to test your knowledge!
The Italian Espresso Menu
Caffè ristretto – A more concentrated espresso made with the same quantity of coffee grounds and half the water. It results in a stronger drink with an intense flavor and syrupy mouthfeel. Caffè lungo – A type of espresso that uses more water and has a longer extraction time than regular espresso. The resulting beverage has a softer taste but contains more caffeine. Caffè macchiato – An espresso with a small amount of milk. Ask the barista for a macchiato caldo for foamed milk or macchiato freddo for cold milk. Adding an additional ingredient multiplies the options: macchiato lungo, macchiato ristretto, with hot or cold milk. If you ask hot or cold milk “on the side,” the barista will serve it in a jug, allowing you to add as much as you like. Caffè corretto – An espresso with a small amount of grappa, sambuca, or any desired liquor that adds an extra kick to the caffeine. Caffè con panna – An espresso with a large blob of whipped cream on top. This gourmet coffee is sometimes served with whipped cream on the side, so you can add more once the first dollop is gone. Caffè mocaccino – It’s a layered drink that originated in Turin, Piedmont, where it is known as Bicerin. The bottom layer is hot chocolate, then milk froth, and finally, a shot of espresso. It can also be sprinkled with cocoa powder. Caffè marocchino – A drink from Alessandria, also in Piedmont. It is prepared by dusting the cup with unsweetened cocoa powder, then adding an espresso and finally a topping of milk froth.
The Espresso Cups
The small ceramic espresso cups are as much part of the experience as the coffee itself. What makes them special?
They are small, thick and ideally made of ceramic to keep the espresso hot and preserve its taste and aroma for longer.
They are rounded inside, allowing the coffee to swirl around nicely and the espresso cream to float on top, golden against the white background.
The artistry of handmade Italian dinnerware explained
Selecting the perfect dinnerware set requires careful consideration. With so many options in terms of brands, designs, and materials, and considering the cost involved, the task can be daunting. If one of the options you are considering is purchasing hand-painted Italian dinner plates, I can definitely give you the lowdown.
The craftsmanship unveiled: how is Italian dinnerware made
Italian dinnerware sets are usually crafted from ceramic, a word that comes from the Greek term “keramos,” which means “clay.” Ceramic covers a range of materials, including porcelain and pottery. Most Italian dinnerware is made from earthenware fired at temperatures around 1800°F to 2100°F. This tradition goes way back – there’s evidence of earthenware pieces dating back to 1400-1200 BC.
Refusing classicisms and Europe’s modern identity of industry and mass production, artists purposely set out to revolutionize art and create something new – hence Art Nouveau. They drew inspiration from nature, abstracting organic subjects into sophisticated, flowing motifs.
Seeking to infuse everyday life with a new aesthetic, Art Nouveau sewed fine arts and craftsmanship together while successfully tearing down the hierarchies between the arts. Traditional handicrafts had a glorious revival, with artists aiming to enrich the lives of the public by improving the design of domestic spaces and objects. Art Nouveau’s legacy continues to inspire Italian artists and artisans today. We have handpicked a small selection of pewter and ceramic works of art to discover and delight in.
Commissioning an Italian artist with a site-specific art project
The first time I saw ND Dolfi’s amazing Tuscan tiles, I was visiting the artist’s studio in Montelupo Fiorentino. It was over 15 years ago. Silvano Dolfi had created large tile panels supported by free-standing iron structures. The multi-colored installations dotted his lawn, positioned so he could see them from the large windows of his beautiful Tuscan casale. Similar to giant paintings, they acted as a strange reversal of the common indoor-outdoor decoration.
I saw them again a few years later in his daughters’ workshop. They were grouped to form large, textured surfaces – each tile fighting for attention with its bold colors and unusual patterns.
By then, Natalia and Daria had followed in the steps of their famous father and started contributing to ND Dolfi’s collections.
I knew I wanted those tiles in my life, but I had to wait until I had the right space and an inspiring décor idea. A few years later, I completed the renovation of my family’s country house and realized that the living room – its 15-foot high ceilings and large windows overlooking the garden – was the perfect space for a large tile panel.
However, it took me a few years of living in the house to know exactly what I wanted and how to achieve it. At that point, I was ready to commission Natalia and Daria Dolfi my ceramic wall panel.
Since antiquity, lemon trees have been considered a valuable luxury and a symbol of prosperity. Their fruit is a symbol of the Mediterranean lifestyle, sunny outdoors, blue skies and leafy greens. Lemons’ sunny yellow evokes energy, light, warmth. No wonder lemons have been inspiring generations of Italian artists and artisans!
Lemons and interior design
Lemon-themed ceramics are the perfect accents for Mediterranean decor style. A geographical variation of the much broader coastal decor trend, it focuses on light and warm color schemes, and extensive use of natural materials such as ceramics, wood, and wrought iron. Statement pieces, such as bold ceramic Sicilian heads, large planters, rich textiles and tilework, are often used to amp up the space’s color.
The true nature of lemons
The proverbial phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” has somehow given lemons a bad rap. It implies lemons are sour or difficult, when they are quite the contrary. Perhaps the person who coined that phrase just never visited Italy in late spring, when luscious lemons are at the peak of their harvest. Picking a large, untreated lemon directly from a tree overlooking the Mediterranean Sea releases a rush of sweet, citrusy aromas that intoxicate the brain. Left to ripen on the tree, the lemon actually becomes sweeter, so much so that some Italians love to eat them plain with just a pinch of salt.
Although originally from Asia, the lemon tree has been cultivated in Italy since as early as Ancient Roman times. They were grown along the coastline as a prime crop, thanks to their high levels of vitamin C which were important in preventing scurvy among sailors. Today lemons are as “Italian” as olives, espresso, and handmade ceramics. The mild, sunny Mediterranean weather – especially in Sicily and along the Amalfi Coast – is the ideal climate for the tree.
The Trinacria, also known as Triskelion, is the familiar three-legged symbol of Sicily.
Everywhere you go in Sicily, you will see a Trinacria, the symbol of our beautiful island. And if you are tempted to bring one home, you’ll have plenty of choices, from sophisticated ceramic Trinacria wall plates from Caltagirone to inexpensive fridge magnets. Of course, we do hope that you’ll go for one of the stunning Sicilian pottery pieces handmade by local artists and artisans, such as Ghenos or Sofia.
Regardless of your choice, you may want to learn about the origin of the Trinacria and impress your fellow travelers with some captivating anecdotes about the origins of Sicily and its three-legged symbol.
Let’s explore the island’s myths and legends, one by one.
Italian ceramics, or Italian pottery, have been in my life for quite a long time: I collect them, I read about them, I sell them.
In Italian, when I say ceramica, everybody understands what I mean. On the contrary, when I talk with one of my American friends, I’m always uncertain: should I say Italian pottery, Italian ceramics or Italian majolica?
In order to do away with any doubt, I did some research. I did learn quite a lot on the subject, and I would love to share my findings with you.
Let’s start with technicalities.
Here is a short review of the definition of the words Ceramics, Pottery and Majolica.
Once we know exactly what we are talking about, we will define what they really mean to people.
The arrival of spring welcomes in colorful flowers, warmer weather, longer days, and an overall sense of life and joy. Hearing birds chirping and children playing outside erases the solemnity of winter and ushers in a cheerful, playful mood. So it’s not surprising that the first of April, better known as April Fool’s Day, is traditionally a light-hearted day full of practical jokes and pranks. And while it is known by a different name in Italy, Italians also love celebrating with a bit of innocent mischief – all in the name of good fun. We at thatsArte love any excuse for celebration and joy, so without giving away too many details, let’s just say that we always have a little something up our sleeve every year on April 1st. (Sign up for our newsletter to be in on the surprise!)
The day of the fool
Just like many modern holidays, the precise origins of April Fool’s Day are unknown. The name itself, at least in English-speaking countries, is pretty self-explanatory as to the day’s objective: play tricks and jokes on a gullible person, or “fool.” It can be as innocent as telling a friend that their shoelace is untied, or much more elaborate, like when the media get involved and tell false stories, for example in 2004 when TG2 in Italy announced the discovery of petroleum on Mars.
Arguably one of the funniest hoaxes in media history had to do with an Italian staple: spaghetti. In 1957 the BBC presented a 3-minute broadcast of a family harvesting the popular pasta from their spaghetti tree in the Italian canton of Switzerland, and scores of viewers fell hook, line, and sinker, calling the station for advice on how to grow their very own spaghetti tree.
April … fish?
Then where exactly do fish come into the picture? Italians also play pranks on the first of April, but the day doesn’t belong to fools. Rather, it is referred to as pesce d’aprile (literally meaning the fish of April). It might have something to do with the origins of the day, but this “April fish” is mainly seen in the most harmless, yet entertaining prank of all, adored by Italian children and adults alike.
A simple paper fish is lightly taped to the back of an unsuspecting victim, much like the infamous “kick me” sign on George McFly in Back to the Future but undoubtedly more innocuous. That person walks around, gathering giggles unless someone takes pity and asks: “L’hai visto?” (Have you seen him?) “Chi?” (Who?) replies the victim. “Il pesce d’aprile!” (The April Fish!) At this point, the target of the prank realizes what’s happened and starts wiggling around trying to get the fish from his back. It’s all quite harmless and in good fun.
A good laugh
More than anything, it is a pretty valid example of the light-hearted nature of Italians in general. Letting the obvious stereotypes come into play, Italians typically enjoy a good laugh, ranging from a simple barzelletta to a Checco Zalone parody or a more sophisticated comedy with Roberto Benigni.
Why not take a cue from the Italians and play the perfect trick this year with your own paper fish and a bit of tape? Spread some smiles and cheer…after all, laughter is the best medicine. And in the hopes of not sounding too cliché, surprise is the spice of life. At least, we think so! If you want to be in on the fun for April 1st, make sure to sign-up for our newsletter. We have a special surprise in store for subscribers.
As a business that was founded by two women and is managed by women, thatsArte looks forward to celebrating International Women’s Day, a day to honor, support, and celebrate women the world over.
We enjoy taking a moment to reflect and share stories with you about different aspects of this holiday, especially those pertaining to us and our corner of the world at thatsArte. This includes the talented female ceramic artists we feature, the world of Italian ceramics and sometimes even special traditions that are a part of Italian life.
The main symbol of Women’s Day in Italy
In Italy, la Festa della Donna is best symbolized by yellow mimosa (aka acacia). The mimosa flower is like a burst of sunshine in the midst of winter, with bright, cheery yellow buds. And on March 8 in particular, yellow bouquets appear everywhere throughout Italy.
Bunches of mimosa flowers are gifted to women of all ages from all walks of life. This tradition dates back to 1946, when political activist Teresa Mattei and women’s rights campaigner Rita Montagnana started giving out mimosa as an act of solidarity to celebrate IWD. They chose the mimosa as opposed to other flowers because it is humble and inexpensive, common throughout the Italian countryside, and consistently blooms in late February-early March (just in time for IWD). In the post-war country, it was therefore a practical choice for women from all socio-economic backgrounds.
A resilient, multitasking flower, just like women
Symbolically, the mimosa is the perfect choice to represent women on this special day. It may look fragile, but the mimosa is actually very resilient and can survive in difficult conditions – just like women. The roots, bark, and flower have been proven to have numerous pharmacological benefits for everything from treating snake bites to depression. What’s more, the wood makes into gorgeous furniture and the sap can be used for glue. All in all, the mimosa can certainly be called the ultimate multi-tasker!
Sicilian lady head vases & mimosa: a perfect match
So this IWD, as we gift a bouquet of mimosa to the women in our lives, we praise their special qualities: delicate yet tenacious, versatile and well-rounded, just like the Sicilian woman immortalized in our stunning handmade head planters. Each is as unique as the women they honor – be it traditional or modern, courageous or shy, bold or refined. We are all united in the beauty and joy of being…women.