The Only Type Of Food Tourists Should Expect To Eat For Breakfast On A Vacation To Italy

Many of us can relate to the disappointing feeling of being told "no" to indulging in breakfast sweets as a child. While a majority of parents attempt to make nutritious breakfasts sound appealing to their children, some cultures enjoy a sweeter style of breakfast fare. Italians, in particular, love to embrace their sweet tooth during their first meal of the day. The daily breakfast options you'll spot inside local cafes vary according to region, but they're consistently on the sweeter side. You're much more likely to find crunchy, almond biscotti in Tuscany, while Sicilians prefer dreamy ricotta-filled cannolis. However, Italian breakfast fare isn't the only thing that's different from traditional American breakfasts.

Breakfast in Italy is a leisure activity — a moment to indulge in the beginning half of the day, making it an integral part of their relaxed, unhurried lifestyles. Cappuccinos and cornettos (similar to a French croissant) are the quintessential elements of a classic Italian breakfast. Rather than barely having time to smear some cream cheese on a bagel before rushing out the door for work, it's not uncommon for Italians to spend a vicarious morning at their favorite coffee shop, indulging in the latest seasonal pastry. While it may seem impractical to cultures with a hustle mindset ingrained in their heads, there's something to be said about the simplistic style of an Italian breakfast that differs drastically from rushed morning rituals.

The art of an Italian breakfast

An innate passion (and need) for a morning cup of coffee is something many cultures around the world can mutually agree on. Espresso is always a given first thing in the early hours of the day, paired with a pastry. While a shot of espresso is an almost hourly essential for Italians in the morning, breakfast is the only time you'll see locals adding a dollop of frothy milk to their brew. Ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon is something tourists should never do, and keeping this in mind can also save you money on your coffee orders

Toasted bread served with a side of flavored marmalade or butter, flaky pastries, and morning cakes are typical breakfast items you can expect to see on the menu spread of local cafes. Ciambella is a unique local breakfast item that's popular across Italy. This fluffy, ring-shaped breakfast cake has a spongy texture with a tinge of lemon infused into its midst — an indulgent yet not overly decadent dessert-like breakfast.

With a protein obsession taking over America's health and diet industries, many tourists will find it difficult to get protein first thing in the morning when visiting this European nation. While not quite as common as the favored bread-based pastries, fresh fruit and yogurt are often available for breakfast in Italy — an easy way to incorporate essential macro and micronutrients into your morning meal.

Why all the sweet treats?

The clock tends to move at a different pace in Italy, with most Italians starting and ending their days much later than the typical American. While it may not seem intuitive, it can have a significant impact on meal times, as well as meal portions. Six o'clock dinners are nonexistent in Italy, with typical end-of-day meal times ranging anywhere from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. These late dinners and larger portions for lunch and dinner, mean Italians often aren't hungry right upon awakening in the morning, making a simple sweet pastry an easy choice. Flavors are also often subtle, sweetened slightly to indulge the palette, but rarely overwhelming.

We've all had the annoying phrase, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day" ingrained into our heads from the day we were old enough to discern lucky charms from frosted flakes. However, Italians reverse this tradition, marking lunch as their most integral meal of the day as a time to break from work and socialize. Italian pastries also contain a lighter version of ingredients than those heavenly Starbucks scones we all know and love. 

It seems as though Italians have mastered the perfect balance between plain and overly indulgent breakfast fare. Simple ingredients have always been staples in Italian kitchens, resulting in breakfast items with lower sugar content and a healthy portion of carbs to boost morning energy levels. Paired with the protein and healthy fats from a milky espresso drink, it's a sweet and satisfying start to the morning and a great way to achieve cultural chameleonism when visiting Italy.