A good beginning to the day bodes well, so in Italy, we usually have a rich, sweet breakfast with our family. Those who switch to eating savory food, usually change their minds after a short time: a sweet breakfast always prevails because of its taste, variety, and convenience. Do you want to know more? Well, read the article, and you will find out more about Italian eating habits.
In our daily routine, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We wake up with the sun rising, feeling sad to leave our beds. We need something to boost us, something which provides us with a good start of the day.
Of course, we can choose among a wide range of breakfasts—super-rich elaborate breakfasts for special days or simple ones. We put placemats on the table and have a quiet breakfast at home before rushing to work.
I’ve always had the same breakfast for as long as I can remember: hot herbal or green tea, three chocolate cookies (I can’t do without chocolate in the morning), and 2 pieces of fruit, usually kiwis, which are very rich in fiber and vitamin C. I can still remember the Sunday breakfast I had when I lived with my parents: a warm delicious brioche to celebrate the special day with the family, sometimes in front of the TV.
We usually have breakfast at home or at a bar (mainly in the cities). It is a nice ritual before going to work; we drink some coffee, read the newspapers, and talk with our children or partners. A typical Italian breakfast usually means a cornetto, meaning a croissant filled with custard, chocolate, or jam and a cappuccino.
But when we are on holiday we often feel like trying something different. As a result, we usually come back home with a lot of souvenirs along with some added kilos. When on holiday, Italians often splurge; we load our plates with plenty of food because we want to eat as people do around the world. We might try bacon and eggs, a slice of tempting homemade cake, a croissant, some fruit, some coffee, and a little orange juice. On holiday, we eat way too much, and we have a big lunch as well.
Brioche, cornetto and croissant
So are brioches, cornetto, or croissant the same? Not at all. From the north to the south, there are three different types of sweet bread, which make an amazingly scrumptious breakfast.
From the north of Italy, a brioche is made with lots of butter, flour, sugar, eggs, yeast, and lard. Soft, light, and silky, a brioche may be stuffed with custard, chocolate cream, or jam. It is perfectly paired with a hot cappuccino. It’s a delicious start of the day, and you will definitely feel happy. Since it is a very rich breakfast you will only have them on special days. The cornetto, or little horn, came from Vienna, Austria, in the 17th century. It consists of flour, milk, eggs, sugar, yeast, and salt. It looks like a small horn, hence its name. The croissant came to Italy from Paris in the 19th century. The recipe doesn’t call for any eggs, and the quantity of sugar is lower than that in the cornetto.
What we drink every day
- Coffee: Goats were the first creatures to drink coffee. They liked to eat the berries from the coffee shrubs, which made them quite restless. So shepherds and a few monks used the beans to make an energizing and revitalizing drink. This “black drink” then became the second most popular beverage after water throughout the whole world.
- Herbal or Green/Black tea: If it didn’t exist, they would have had to invent it. In my mind, it is the best drink in the world. I’m not very fond of coffee, but I go crazy over tea. I can’t do without a good cup of hot green or jasmine tea in the morning.
What does an Italian breakfast look like?
- Milk: It is rich in protein, calcium, phosphorous, and mineral salts. Those who are lactose intolerant can choose lactose-free milk. If you enjoy a more sour taste, you might choose plain, unflavored yogurt.
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts provide you with plenty of “good fats” to balance your breakfast. I prefer something to crunch on.
- Ham, eggs, smoked salmon: Italians only have these kinds of food on holiday at the hotel breakfast buffet,
Speaking of crunchy
- Fette biscottate: Light and crunchy, this kind of toasted bread dates back to the 19th century when people needed sustenance that lasted a long time. They are not common outside of Italy.
- Toasted bread: This is part of the Italian tradition. Our grandparents used to dip pieces of dry stale bread in hot milk, or what we called “bread and milk soup.” It is the simplest and most filling kind of morning meal in rural areas. It is perfectly paired with butter and jam because bread suits everyone’s tastes.
- Cookies: The Italian word biscotto comes from the Latin panis biscoctus, which literally means “baked twice.” They are the result of quite an innocent mistake: a tired cook put his “bread” into the oven and then fell asleep. When he woke up, he had overcooked thin, crunchy, small cylindrical pieces: a delicious kind of mistake, indeed. Nowadays we may encounter numerous kinds and shapes of cookies.
- Traditional cakes: There is nothing better to start the day with than a fragrant homemade apple pie you have just baked, a rich tempting piece of chocolate cake, a homemade carrot cake filled with fruity goodness, some simple fruit, and grain muffins, a yogurt, or a fruity plum cake.
- Breakfast cereals and muesli: In the beginning of the 1960s, muesli was considered the perfect breakfast for those who were on a low-calorie diet. Nowadays things have changed, and it is mostly popular among people who want a healthy and rich morning meal. The original recipe was invented by a Swiss doctor who needed to provide his patients with a balanced and healthy breakfast. It involved a mix of oat flakes, almonds, walnuts, sunflower, and flax seeds, which were first soaked in water and lemon juice overnight. They were then combined with yogurt for the breakfast the following morning. Today, different cereal and fruit combos are combined with either yogurt and/or milk and provide the main ingredient in hot and cold cereals. Plenty of choices are available.
- Cornetto and Croissant: These pastries may have different names, yet Italians, both children, and grown-ups, enjoy their soft and embracing texture. It is the most beloved and common breakfast you may have at “the bar” or café in Italy. They are quite difficult to make, but I will take on this challenge, and sooner or later, I will make them for you.
Some delicacies to make your breakfast richer and sweeter
- Jam: On bread or fette biscottate, jam plays a very important role in a typical Italian breakfast. You may enjoy plenty of flavors as described in many legends about jam. According to one legend, specifically orange marmalade was created in Italy to satisfy the desire of a Spanish Queen who missed the oranges from her beloved country.
- Chocolate spread: Hazelnut chocolate spread, like Nutella, was invented after the Second World War by a confectioner from the Piedmont region. The first recipe was quite different from the modern one as it was a kind of solid sweet stick made of hazelnut, sugar, and cocoa powder. It was cut with a knife and spread onto a slice of bread. Since then, it has spread all around the world and has conquered everyone’s tastebuds. It really makes the beginning of one’s day much happier. It certainly tops the chart as one of my favorites.
- Honey: Millefiori, thousand flower honey, or honey from any other blossoms can be spread on fette biscottate or warm toasted bread. Top it off with a handful of toasted nuts. So delicious and satisfying!
Don’t forget fruit
Some fresh fruit, fruit juice, or a fruit salad will provide your breakfast with plenty of fiber and vitamins. Fruit will satisfy you and its fiber will keep you feeling full longer.
Have a different breakfast in every region you go to
Every region in Italy has its own typical breakfast:
- In Piedmont, have some zabaglione, a sweet custard made with eggs, sugar, and Marsala wine, with delicious krumiri biscuits (we will bake them together);
- In Veneto, you may enjoy apple strudel paired with wonderful coffee, a super breakfast;
- In Liguria, you may have a very scrumptious savory breakfast of focaccia, or flatbread from Genoa and some tea;
- In Lazio, don’t miss maritozzo, a sweet roll with whipped cream. It is definitely delicious;
- In Sardinia, try their famous crepes with Pecorino cheese and honey—they are yummy;
- In Campania, look for sfogliatelle, delicious pastries stuffed with custard. They will make your breakfast unforgettable;
- In Sicily, start the day with a soft tasty sweet bun stuffed with flavorful granita, Italian ices. Also don’t miss cannoli, stuffed with sweet ricotta cheese right in front of you.