What do italians eat for breakfast?

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Last Updated on December 1, 2023 by Laura Teso

Over the years I realized how many things I gave for granted. Like the names of Diney characters, as I explained some time ago. This time, I broach another delicate subject, Italian breakfast. La colazione [lah koh-lah-TSYOH-neh]. What do italians eat for breakfast?

Of course, many of you are used to travel a lot and already know the answer. Others will be surprised instead. Italian breakfast is in fact mainly sweets and carbs based. There are some variations. I made a list of the most common possibilities.

What do italians eat for breakfast?

Italian breakfast at home

  • Milk and cookies (and not only children eat that).
    What do italians eat for breakfast?
    What do italians eat for breakfast?
  • Milk and corn flakes or other cereals. Or muesli for those with an healthy lifestyle. Sometimes yogurt is a substitute for milk.
  • Elderly people (my father for example) would eat milk with bread soaked in.
  • Some people add caffè in the milk, or drink milk and coffee separately.
  • Kids also eat merendine, packaged sweet snacks.
  • Another possibility is bread and nutella (also adults).
  • Or bread and jam (with or without butter).
    breakfast in Italy
  • A substitute for bread are fette biscottate (rusks), often recommended by nutritionists.
  • Finally, homemade cakes are another option.

At a B&B or hotel

So, basically all options are sweet. Many B&Bs only provide with this kind of breakfast, including more or less all this variations, but all of them sweet: cookies, bread, cakes, jam, nutella, butter, milk, etc. And drinks. Some b&b also offer continental breakfast. Among them, there are those who prepare it only upon request and adding a fee. While hotels all offer also a salty breakfast, even if the amount of possibilities (and their quality) varies a lot, according to the different hotel.

What do italians eat for breakfast?

Italian breakfast at the café

  • At the bar (café), people usually have a coffee based drink (cappuccino or other variations) and a croissant or a different kind of sweet baked good.
  • Learn more about the different Italian coffe based drinks here!

  • As for the croissant, it has a different name in different regions. In my area we call it brioche. In central Italy they say cornetto. Pay attention because in Sicily brioche is a local kind of sweet pastry, round and with a smaller round top, served with gelato. They actually call it brioscia.
    Sicilian_brioche
  • The croissant can be filled with custard, jam, nutella, etc.
  • Other common drinks at the café are fresh orange juice, other fruit juices or tea.

My breakfast

As for me, I rarely have breakfast at a café. When I do, I often choose a brioche con la crema cotta (similar to a Danish custard pastry) and a ginseng coffee. Or a green tea. And I take my time, sitting at a table, not standing at the counter. Having breakfast at the counter is what people do if they have to go to work and they just have 5 minutes. I prefer to eat out when it can be a special, slow occasion.

Italian breakfast

Sadly, as a kid I grew up eating a lot of junk food for breakfast: sweet snacks, cookies, sugary cereals, etc. At the time there was no food culture and no awareness about sugar risks. I think I developed some kind of addiction to it. I still love sweet flavours.

Since a couple of years I changed my habits, including at breakfast also fresh fruits (banana, apple and other fruits) and nuts. I usually add a little piece of chocolate (90%). And I eat 2 slices of flaxseed bread with lactose free butter and jam (with no sugar added). Some days I have a soft-boiled egg. Every now and then smoked salmon or other kind of proteins. I have low vitamin B12, so the doctor suggested me to eat eggs and some B12 rich fishes.

What do italians eat for breakfast?
What do italians eat for breakfast?

Traditions

By tradition, I don’t think Italian breakfast was sweet at all. At least not in my region, that was very poor until the post WW2 war period. Farmers used to eat milk and bread (that’s why my father still eats that), or even milk with leftovers of polenta (boiled cornmeal). I found no sources online about the reasons of the subsequent habit to have mostly sweet food for breakfast. Sorry. I was curious too!


That said, what do you have for breakfast when you travel to Italy? Do you enjoy Italian breakfast?

Discussion4 Comments

  1. Hi Laura, when we were in Italy we tried coffee and cannoli or croissant when at a cafe, or eggs when sitting down. Usually we would have leftover crusty bread and cheeses, meats and tomatoes if at home. We are used to loaves of sliced bread in New Zealand so would usually have toast with spreads for breakfast or cereal. We couldn’t really find the kind of bread we are used to in Italy, but the crusty version is so much better anyway. Thanks for your insight. Louise

  2. I just returned from Italy for the first time. I now understand why the hotel didn’t offer bacon for breakfast. I usually have eggs, and they did have that. There were so many pastries and fruit, and now it all makes sense!
    I would love to hear about Italian dinners. My fiance and I like to have an early dinner – about 5pm – but restaurants don’t seem to open for dinner until 6 or 7. A lot of people were eating very late. Do Italians stay up late every night? Thanks for information here!

    • Laura Teso

      I usually go to bed around 11 pm. There are people who go to bed early or not, but on average we start dinner between 7 (especially in the North) and 8.30-9. I don’t follow a regular dinner schedule, it depends on each day’s commitments. Sometimes 7.30, sometimes 8 and other times 8.30. But honestly, I don’t know why we dine at this hour. For us it’s normal. It’s also that many business are open until 7 or 8 so people who work there must wait to have dinner. We, on the contrary, are very surprised at hearing that in other countries people dine that early.