Italian colazione (breakfast) is a simple daily ritual, and if not at home, had while standing at the bar on the way to work: perhaps a scalding espresso, cappuccino (espresso and a dollop of foamed milk) or caffè latte (say “latte” alone and you’ll get a glass of milk.)
For those Italians wanting to avoid caffeine, they never order “decaf”, but might order a drink unknown to Americans: Orzo, a hot, nutty, roasted-barley beverage that looks like cocoa. Orzo means barley in Italian. It was originally intended as non-coffee substitute for children but has gained wide acceptance as a healthy alternative to the caffeine overdose experienced by espresso and cappuccino.
While the espresso starts their engines, they still need to fill their tanks in the morning. At home, Italians won’t have bacon and eggs but might have cereal or a biscuit, fruit and juice. If on the run, they will tend to start their day at a local bar with espresso and a dose of starch and sugar… pasticcini (pastries).
Here are some common choices: The cornetto is the less flaky, less buttery version of French croissant. Cornetti ripieni (filled) come with jam, cheese, pastry creme or Nutella.
A plain one is a cornetto semplice or cornetto vuoto (empty). By the way, when you see the rectangular shaped ones filled with chocolate, they are called saccottino al cioccolato (sacks of chocolate) not pain au chocolat. This is Italy, after all.
A crostata is a fruit tart with a crust of pasta frolla, filled with either amarena (sour cherry), albicocca (apricot) or frutti di bosco (wild berry).The ciambella is basically an Italian doughnut often filled with jam or custard.Viennoiserie are the fancier, more refined pastries with a French influence. They might include brioches, strudel di mele, eclairs and more.
For the Italian rushing to work, he or she has perhaps five minutes of chit-chat with a neighbor while standing-up at the neighborhood bar, slurping down his espresso and cornetto in quick order before rushing out the door to work.
If you are staying at a B&B in Italy, by law they are only allowed to supply you with pre-packaged breakfasts pastries, toasts and biscuits.
A “Bar” in Italy is not like bars in the States. They are places to go for breakfast, espresso, pastries and for lunch they offer panini, small pizzas and focaccia… families with children are welcome. During the lunchtime “riposa”, when most places (including restaurants in small towns) close for 2-3 hours, the local Bar is where you would stop for a quick lunch.