What Italians really eat for breakfast
Is breakfast in Italy considered an important meal?
The real Italian breakfast is hard to be strictly defined. As everything about Italian cuisine, it has different nuances that vary with the habits and customs of the region. In Sicily for example, in the area of Catania, people traditionally eat a soft pastry with granita (halfway between slushy and gelato). However, breakfast in Italy is not as diverse as the traditional cooking. As a matter of fact all over the Italian peninsula people almost exclusively eat a sweet breakfast.
The places for breakfast in Italy: at home
The vast majority of Italians does not spend much time for their first meal during working days, on average 13 minutes are enough to eat. A 2019 survey stated that 84% of the population prefers to eat at home, but not necessarily together: as a matter of fact one out of two Italians claims to eat alone, 36% with the partner, and 22% with their children. For being a people whose social pillar is eating together, breakfast isn’t apparently a big deal for Italians, but what do they like to eat in the morning?
- Fette biscottate (melba toasts) with fruit jam
- Bread with creams (i.e. Nutella)
Differently from the habits of most Northern European countries, Italians are not very fond of cereals, since only 7% of the interviewees said they could not eat breakfast without them. Guess instead what cannot be missing from an Italian table in the morning? Yes, it was an easy one! Lots of coffee, that is indispensable for 62% of Italians, followed by milk, fruit juices, and eventually tea.
“Cappuccino e brioche“: when breakfast is outside
Despite eating at home is by far the preferred option, a lot of Italians like to start their day at a cafe, that in Italy is more commonly called bar. Since breakfast is devoted less time and importance than other meals, it is very likely to see people quickly eating in a bar while standing up. But this doesn’t mean that food is allowed to be less delicious! All Italian bars have freshly made sweet pastries every morning which are the queens of the Italian breakfast. There is a huge variety of them in any Italian bar, however this kind of pastries are generically called in three different ways depending on the part of Italy where you are:
- Brioche in the North (or croissant, both borrowed from the French)
- Pasta in Central Italy (See the various uses of the word pasta)
- Pastarella in the South
It can be empty or have various fillings: jam, chocolate or custard, and it is traditionally accompanied with a good old cappuccino.
However, eating at a bar is usually considered like a rite for Italians. They tend to go to the same place: either because the coffee is good, because the pastine are the freshest, or because of the good company. Each bar in Italy is the core of a little community of morning acquaintances, where to consume a quick breakfast, have a brief chat and have a look at the newspaper: an essential element in all Italian bars, usually opened on the sports page!
New trends, new habits, old traditions
Italians are not renown for being very unpredictable, but on the contrary they are creatures of habit. Nonetheless, the Italian breakfast is slightly changing and it is enclosing international foods. Muffins for example – that are by now very common – were almost non existent until 20 years ago. Furthermore bars, restaurants, and hotels are increasingly beginning to offer an international option for breakfast besides the traditional way. Especially during the week-end it is not difficult to see pancakes or bacon and eggs in menus, but you can be sure that cappuccino e brioche will keep ruling the Italian breakfast for long!