What to do if you don’t want to order a cappuccino in Italy after 11am

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)? ‘http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id))js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+’://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);

Most people have heard the old saying that cappuccino should not be ordered in Italy after 11 AM.

Like most cultural myths, there is a foundation of truth to this story. However, it is often exaggerated. Here are the facts, along with some history.

Monks and Monkeys and Coffee

Portrait of a Capuchin by Jan Zasiedatel

According to popular wisdom, the association of “cappuccino” with coffee dates back to the late 1940s. However, the root of the term dates back further.

Italian for “cappuccio”, the word means “hood” and any word ending in “-ino”, means that it is small or cute. Cappuccino can also be translated as “little hood”, which refers to the hood worn by Franciscan monks in the early 1500s.

These monks were known as Capuchin monks or Cappuccini in Italian.

A few centuries later when scientists were giving names to primates scientists bestowed the name “capuchin” on a monkey species with a coloring that scientists believed resembled Capuchin monks’ hoods.

Although it isn’t clear when frothy coffee and coffee were combined, the beverage we now know as a cappuccino was patented in 1901. The term “cappuccino”, however, was not common until the late 1940s. The drink’s name came from the color that reminded someone of the Capuchin monks who wore the robes.

Although the cappuccino was not invented by monks, it is their name.

The Famous Cappuccino Rule

Let’s get to the heart of the saying, “Never order a cappuccino after 11:00 am.”

It is important to remember that has nothing to do with cappuccino and everything to do with milk .

It is no surprise that Italians are obsessed with their digestion. It is a topic they think about a lot. It’s not taboo and is often the topic of TV commercials in Italy. Look in any Italian grocery store’s yogurt aisle to see how many yogurt containers are marketed as digestive aids. (Remember Activia? It’s still very popular in Italy.

Italians believe that drinking milk after eating will cause digestive problems. They avoid drinking milk after eating, as it is not something they will do. Because Italian breakfast is a combination of a coffee drink with a pastry, it doesn’t count. The milk is part of the meal if your coffee drink choice is a cappuccino.

However, ordering a cappuccino after lunch or dinner is not a good idea. It would be a crime for an Italian to do this.

Here’s the thing, though – if you’re not Italian, or if you are and you don’t subscribe to the milk-destroys-digestion theory, go ahead and order whatever milky coffee drink you want at any time of day. They will likely accept your request in most larger or more touristy cities and make it without any questions.

Some waiters might give you a strange look or tell you why it’s bad. Chances are that you will get the coffee you pay for, even if the waiter says a silent prayer for you gastro-intestinal health as you sip it.

Now, even if the waiter refuses to serve you, you will understand that he/she is only looking out for your best interests.

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)? ‘http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id))js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+’://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);

16 Responses to “Why You Shouldn’t Order a Cappuccino In Italy After 11am”

  • This is a great way to tie it together with the monks or the monkeys. Fun history!

    I would not order it right after having eaten pasta, salads, or anything with tomatoes. They would, however, order a cappuccino in the afternoon, after lunch has gone.

    • Jess has the following:

      That’s great to know!

    • Gunilla says:

      This is what I noticed – at a bar in Prati Roma, some women were having coffee in afternoon. They sat down and had a pleasant talk. After a while they had some capuccino and sweets …..

      It was nice, social ….

  • Flat out refusing – kind of funny, unless you find yourself in this situation! You can order whipped cream with a citrus gelato…or an orange before bedtime!

    • Jess has the following:

      It’s always kind of funny to me, even the plain-out refusals. But only because I know they aren’t being mean just for the sake. Because I can drink plain old coffee.

  • Wow! You really did research this one! I was one of the people who were criticized for ordering a cappuccino at the end of the day (fresh from the boat, so it is). A poll of my Italian friends revealed that only two would order one after 11:15. My barista has been in business for over 40 years and has never had anyone order one after 11:00 (until that day, when I ordered one on a cold morning).

  • This is a great article. This article is very informative and explains why my mother refused to give us milk with tomato sauce and pasta for dinner. It had to be soda!

  • Adriana says:

    Jessica, this is a great article!

    I am doing research on Italian traditions and these “rules”. After reading all this, I was left with a question.. What about gelato? Gelato is entirely milk-based. I’m guessing that this 11 am rule doesn’t apply …?

  • Gigi says:

    I have been to Italy for over 30 years, and these rules are absurd. Ask an Italian why gelato is acceptable right after a meal, but not capuccino. Watch them struggle to find an answer and then suddenly change the subject. It’s absurd, just as the idea that air conditioning causes you to get sick.

    • Jess has the following:

      Even though I may not agree with the beliefs of someone, I am still curious about them. I usually try to respect them as long as they do not inconvenience me.

  • Valeria

    Cappuccinos are my favorite, they make my day! I enjoy finding

    Easy ways to make my cup a joe.

  • Bullhead says:

    Are you obsessed with “digestion?” This is a new concept to me as an Italian. You were told that joke. Cappuccino was meant to be a cafe-breakfast drink…maybe that is why?

    • Jessica says:

      It’s not a joke. This is based on years spent observing and speaking with Italians and expats alike.

  • Related Articles