Saturday, June 27, 2015

Go, go, go

by Allison Armfield 
In America, it is always go, go, go! One thing I have come to appreciate about Italian culture is that people take their time here: From about noon to four, most shops close and people break for pausa. In the late afternoon, you will find many Italians sitting in the piazza enjoying their aperitivo--which consists of a drink and a salty snack--and simply enjoying the daily interaction between neighbors. Dinners can take several hours because people enjoy the food, the drink, and the company; nobody is worrying about where they have to be next.

The caffé is a different experience altogether here. In America we are on the run in the mornings, and we depend on caffeine to get us through our demanding day. I worked for Starbucks for almost eight years and it was not uncommon for many patrons to start their day with a quad shot of espresso in their latte. I have yet to see a drive-thru coffee shop in Italy, and most caffés don’t even carry paper cups. You walk into the caffé, order your beverage, and sip it at the counter for a few minutes before you pay and head out to start your day.

I have been in Italy for over two weeks now, and occasionally I have ordered a doppio (double) espresso to help me get through my studies. It wasn’t until one of my last days in Cagli that Fabrizzio from Caffé del Commercio finally explained, through a fit of laughter, that there is no such thing as a “double shot” in Italy, and that all this time I have been ordering (literally) “two” espressos. My mind was blown! When asked what he, and other baristas, have been giving me all of this time he explained (still laughing) that instead of pulling individual shots of espresso, he measures out a specific weight of ground coffee and pull it for a certain amount of time dependent on the drink. If we would like more coffee, the barista would simply pull the shots longer.

In the short time I have spent in Italy, I have prided myself in the fact that I can at least successfully order my drinks or food in fluent Italian. The lesson in this embarrassing example of cultural dissonance is that despite how much I am trying to immerse, I am still a foreigner and acculturation is a long process. Even things you think you are familiar with, like coffee, are different when you are abroad. Espresso was brought to America from Italy and we still somehow found a way to Americanize it! When I go in to order my coffee on my last few days in Cagli, I ask Fabrizzio for a doppio and we both have a good laugh about it.