Morning in Italy: What Do Italians Eat for Breakfast?

Imagine waking up to the melodic chirping of birds and the gentle rays of the golden Mediterranean sun slipping its way through the shutters. You hear faint noises of the bustling city around you as it awakens. The smell of freshly baked bread and brewed espresso drifts into your room. You’re not dreaming. This is a typical morning in Italy: a country that takes pride not only in its rich history, art, and culture but also its enticing culinary rituals. One such ritual is breakfast. Most people outside of Italy would associate Italian cuisine with pasta, pizza, and risotto. But what does a traditional Italian breakfast, also known as colazione, actually look like?

A Glimpse into the Italian Breakfast Culture

Before delving into the particulars of what Italians eat for breakfast, it’s important to understand the cultural significance surrounding this meal in Italy. Breakfast in Italy is often quick and light; far from the hearty, bacon-and-eggs style breakfasts often seen in other parts of the world. Italians see breakfast as a simple necessity to kick-start the day, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t filled with deliciously authentic Italian food.

The Italian Breakfast Staples

What’s the key to any Italian’s heart in the morning? Coffee and pastries.


It’s no secret that Italians love their coffee. It isn’t simply a drink in Italy; it is an ingrained part of the culture. Each morning, Italian coffee bars buzz with customers stopping on their way to work for a quick cup of coffee. The choice of coffee varies depending on personal preference, with options ranging from a shot of espresso to a cappuccino. However, it’s important to note that cappuccino is traditionally consumed only in the morning in Italy.


The quintessential Italian breakfast pastry is the cornetto, not dissimilar from the French croissant, but less buttery and slightly sweeter. The cornetto is often filled with jam, cream, or chocolate. If not a cornetto, Italians often opt for other pastries like biscuits or simple bread.

Regional Variations

Just like with any culture, breakfast in Italy is not uniform, and regional variations do exist. Here is a look at the breakfast foods in three major regions of Italy.


Tuscans traditionally start their day with a slice of Tuscan Bread, known for its hard exterior and soft interior, often topped with locally made jams, honey, or simply a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


Sicilian breakfasts are known for being sweeter than the rest of Italy. In addition to the typical coffee and pastries, Sicilians have a slightly unique recipe to their mornings. A popular morning treat is the Granita, a semi-frozen dessert typically made from sugar, water, and various flavorings. They also have the sweet and crunchy Cannoli, a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough with a sweet creamy filling usually containing ricotta.


The region of Veneto is famously known for its traditional breakfast wine, the Prosecco. Locals often pair their morning bubbly with Panettone, a type of sweet bread loaf.

Modern Day Italian Breakfasts

Although the traditional Italian breakfast remains popular, modern habits are slowly changing breakfast culture. Many Italians are adapting to a more American-style breakfast and it’s now common to find cereals, eggs, and pancakes in an Italian breakfast spread.


In essence, breakfast in Italy is a sweet and simple affair. While the rest of the day may involve a variety of delectable dishes and multiple courses, the morning is time for simplicity. A strong cup of coffee and a sweet pastry are the main pillars of the Italian breakfast, getting Italians ready for the day ahead. Whether you’re a local or just visiting, starting your day the Italian way is an experience not to be missed.

A Closer Look at the Italian Colazione

Starting your day with a typical Italian breakfast, often referred to as la colazione, is quite different from a hearty American or English breakfast. The Italian view of breakfast is more about kick-starting your metabolism rather than filling up for the day.

The Role of Caffeine

In many Italian homes or cafes, espresso is a breakfast staple. It’s usually consumed quickly, with locals often standing at the bar to savour this morning ritual. But it is not just about standard espresso. You will also find variations of this beloved beverage. Cappuccino, an espresso with foamy milk, is a morning favourite. However, it’s generally frowned upon to order one after 11 a.m., as Italians believe the milk may interfere with digestion.

The Sweet Side of Italian Breakfasts

When it comes to food, an Italian breakfast leans to the sweeter side. A most popular choice is pastries, with cornetti leading the pack. Similar to French croissants, but less buttery, cornetti can be enjoyed plain or filled with delightful options such as custard, chocolate, or fruit jam.

The Simplicity of an Italian Breakfast at Home

While cafes offer a variety of options, an Italian breakfast at home may be simpler. A common breakfast consists of toast with butter and jam or a slice of bread with Nutella. Another quintessential part of an Italian breakfast is the rusks or fette biscottate. These twice-baked slices of bread often come with a spread of butter, jam, or honey.

Cereals and Yogurts

In recent years, cereals and yogurts have become more popular as a quick and nutritionally balanced option. A bowl of cereal with milk, or a cup of yogurt, preferably fruit-flavored, can also be mixed with granola or muesli for added taste and nutritional value.

Regional Variations

Italy is rich in regional culinary traditions, and this is no exception when it comes to breakfast. In certain regions, particularly in the south, it’s not unusual to kick off the day with a robust and savory meal. For instance, In Sicily, a typical local breakfast may include a brioche with gelato or granita.

Italian Breakfast during Festive Seasons

During the holiday season or for special occasions, Italians may indulge in a more elaborate breakfast like Panettone or Pandoro- traditional Italian Christmas bread. Of course, these delights are often accompanied by a shot of strong espresso to balance the sweetness.

To conclude, unlike other international cuisines that often feature eggs, bacon, or sausage, an Italian breakfast is a fairly light affair with a sweet touch, proving to be a uniquely appetizing way to start the day.