What do you think when you think of Italy?
Well, pizza, probably. Beautiful monuments, clear blue sea, heaps of pasta, maybe. But there is something else that is deeply rooted in Italian culture, just like pizza and pasta: it’s coffee, il caffè!
Being so serious as we are about all things related to food, we give massive importance to coffee and the Italian coffee culture is a bit of a religion.
First of all, coffee is just espresso. Real Italians – or better old-school ones – take only that kind of coffee into consideration. Coffee must be strong, served in a small cup and usually drunk in just one shot. Filter coffee – which is something I couldn’t live without – is usually frowned upon and people would say about it: “è solo del brodo” (it’s just broth).
Coffee is so deeply rooted in our culture that the phrase “ci prendiamo un caffè?” (shall we have a coffee?) can have some interesting shades of meaning. I was thinking about it the other day and decided to write another post regarding the hidden meaning of Italian phrases, just like the one I wrote about pasta.
Let’s start with the work environment. Say for example that you are about to start a meeting or visiting a client or about to start working on something: it is quite sure that your fellow coworkers will ask you “ci prendiamo un caffè?”, which is a sort of warm-up before actually beginning to work.
Since we Italians tend to avoid eating – or drinking coffee – and working at the same time, “ci prendiamo un caffè?” means reaching the nearest bar or the automated machine, having a shot of espresso and talking for five minutes, as the time for coffee is usually quite short.
“Ci prendiamo un caffè?”, said in the middle of the morning or afternoon, literally means “let’s take a break”. Having a coffee, once again, means leaving the office or the meeting room and spending some time chatting while preparing il caffè con la moka (coffee with the moka machine), if you are working from home, or going to the bar or the automated machine.
There’s no such thing as drinking coffee while working, here in Italy. Coffee is a break and demands some time for itself.
Since the time requested to have a coffee is so short, “ci prendiamo un caffè?” can also be a way of asking people out without actually doing it openly. Something more relaxed than an invite for dinner, I mean.
If somebody tells you, “ci prendiamo un caffè, uno di questi giorni?” (shall we have coffee, one of these days?), it is basically a way to test the waters and see if there is a possibility of taking things further – if you see what I mean.
It can also happen that you bump into a friend you haven’t seen in a while and start chatting and maybe he or she tells you “ci prendiamo un caffè?”: in such case, it basically means “I am happy I met you and would love to chat a bit more with you but I do not have much time”, it is just a way to convey the meaning that you loved seeing your friend again and would like to spend a bit more time with him or her.
I am sure there are other meanings of this phrase, can you come up with some of them? Let me know!
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!