Traditional Italian Breakfast foods

Traditional Italian Breakfast Foods to Savor

Are you looking to delight yourself in Italian breakfast foods? There is a lot to enjoy in a classic Italian breakfast.

Below, I explore everything from traditional pastries to regional Italian breakfast specialties. Here’s what I discuss:

I also made a quick table to help you navigate everything:

CategoryExamplesKey Features
Traditional Pastries & BiscuitsCornetto, Brioche, BiscottiDelicate and sweet pastries with various fillings, such as cream, jam, and chocolate. Biscotti, crunchy and perfect for dipping in coffee.
Simple & SatisfyingPane Burro e Marmellata (Bread, Butter, and Jam)Classic combination with variations, using different types of bread. A balance of flavors for a satisfying breakfast.
Healthy & WholesomeCereals, Yogurt, Fresh FruitNutritious alternatives with a focus on fiber, nuts, and seasonal fresh fruits. Perfect for a lighter start to the day.
Nutella LoveNutellaDelicate and sweet pastries with various fillings, such as cream, jam, and chocolate. Biscotti is crunchy and perfect for dipping in coffee.
Italian Coffee CultureEspresso, Cappuccino, MacchiatoA robust and aromatic cup of coffee is integral. Espresso, a concentrated shot; Cappuccino, frothy with espresso and steamed milk; Macchiato, espresso “marked” with a hint of milk.
Regional SpecialtiesFrittelle, Zeppole di San Giuseppe, ColombaWidely enjoyed hazelnut chocolate spread, commonly slathered on bread or breakfast biscuits, for a quick and sweet start.
A table highlighting popular Italian breakfast foods.

Key Takeaways

  • Italian breakfasts are often centered around coffee, and how coffee is enjoyed reflects a unique cultural ritual. From strong and quick espresso shots to frothy cappuccinos, the choice of coffee varies throughout the morning, and there’s a tradition of consuming milky coffees like cappuccino only until 11 am.
  • Pastries, biscuits, and sweet spreads like Nutella are common breakfast choices, highlighting Italians’ preference for a sweet start to the day. This contrasts with breakfast traditions in some other cultures that lean towards savory options.
  • While pastries and sweet treats are enjoyed, there’s also a growing trend towards healthier breakfast choices. Cereals, yogurt, and fresh fruit provide a balance, catering to those who prioritize nutrition without sacrificing flavor.

A Sweet Morning: Italian Pastries and Biscuits

Coffee with Italian Pastries for Breakfast
Coffee with delicious pastries for breakfast? Yes, please!

Sweet treats are a staple of traditional Italian breakfasts, making mornings a little more indulgent. Pastries and cakes, such as cornetto, brioche, and biscotti, are commonly enjoyed with a steaming cup of coffee, providing a delightful start to the day.

Italian bars and cafes often serve these delightful pastries at their Italian breakfast tables, making it easy to grab a quick and tasty breakfast on the go.

Here are some selected Italian sweet treats to delight your mornings;


The cornetto, often referred to as the Italian croissant, is one of Italy’s most popular breakfast pastries. It shares similarities with the French croissant, but the cornetto is typically filled with:

  • cream
  • jam
  • chocolate
  • almond paste

This makes it a delightful and slightly sweeter treat.

This delicious pastry has its roots in the kipfel , a traditional pastry from Vienna, and is now a staple in Italian bars and cafes for breakfast.

Interesting fact: Cornetto may look a lot like croissant due “somewhat” similar shape, but there’s one more ingredient that may completely differentiate the two: Croissant may in fact have some of the flavors I mentioned above, but never involves the use of eggs and sweeteners. Other than a hint of butter, croissant generally has a neutral taste.

A classic Italian cornetto
A classic Italian cornetto.


Another famous Italian breakfast pastry is the brioche, a soft, buttery bread roll that can be enjoyed plain or with various sweet fillings.

In northern Italy, a cornetto is often referred to as a brioche and can be enjoyed with a variety of beverages, like rice milk. Typical fillings for brioche include:

  • chocolate spread
  • crema pasticcera (also known as creme patisserie in English)
  • jam
  • pistachio cream

These fillings make brioche a staple in a classic Italian breakfast. A blob of filling on top of the brioche is an identifier for the filling inside.

different types of brioche
Brioche come with different fillings and can take different forms.


Biscotti, also known as Italian breakfast biscuits, are crunchy, sweet cookies that are a popular choice for Italian breakfasts.

These cookies have a long and storied history in Italy, originating in the Tuscan region in the 14th century. Biscotti were initially created as a long-shelf-life food for the Roman Legions during battles, and even enjoyed by Christopher Columbus during his sea voyages.

Today, biscotti are often enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea, making them perfect for dipping and savoring during breakfast.

For more details, refer to our post about Italian cookie brands and choose the best biscotti for your sweet Italian-style breakfast.

Simple and Satisfying: Bread, Butter, and Jam

Bread butter and jam
Bread butter and jam – often, simple is best!

For those who prefer a more straightforward yet satisfying breakfast, consider the classic combination of pane burro e marmellata, or bread, butter, and jam.

This traditional Italian breakfast staple can also be seen as a variation of a traditional breakfast, enjoyed using different types of bread, such as rosette in Rome.

A perfect balance of flavors, this combination is a reminder that sometimes the simplest things in life can be the most delightful.

Healthy and Wholesome: Cereals, Yogurt, and Fresh Fruit

Cereals with Yogurt and fresh fruit
That is perhaps a slightly healthier breakfast option.

While pastries and sweet treats are typical at the Italian breakfast table, healthier and more wholesome options are also available for those who prefer to eat breakfast with a focus on nutrition.

Cereals, yogurt, and fresh fruit provide a nutritious alternative to the typical Italian breakfast foods, offering a lighter start to the day.


With Italians growing more health-conscious, cereals such as muesli, granola, and cornflakes are gaining popularity at the breakfast table.

Recent surveys indicate that approximately 30% of Italians consume cereals as part of their regular breakfast routine, showing a shift in what Italians eat.

So, In Italy, the current focus seems to be on healthier options, such as fiber, nuts, and dried fruits, instead of sugary and highly processed brands.


Yogurt serves as another versatile, nutritious option for breakfast in Italy.

Low-fat yogurt can be enjoyed with a teaspoon of blueberry preserves for added sweetness or topped with dried fruit and a teaspoon of honey for a more filling meal.

Italian yogurt comes in a variety of flavors, such as Limone (Lemon), Pistacchio (Pistachio), Caffè (Coffee), Banane (Banana), and Ciliegia (Cherry), with popular brands like Yomo, Vipiteno, and Fage.

Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit into an Italian breakfast adds natural sweetness and essential nutrients to the morning meal.

In Italy, fresh fruit is chosen to reflect the seasons, with the preference to consume seasonal ingredients at their peak flavor and freshness. Enjoying freshly squeezed fruit juices is another delightful way to savor the taste of fresh fruit during breakfast.

Common fruits in Italian breakfasts include apples, kiwis, oranges, pears, strawberries, blackberries, mangoes, grapes, and pomegranates.

Nutella Love: Italy’s Favorite Chocolate Spread

Nutella bread

Nutella, a favorite chocolate spread in Italy, is a widely enjoyed breakfast treat across all age groups. This delicious hazelnut spread is often slathered on bread or enjoyed with breakfast biscuits like Fette biscotti, a twice-baked, crispy bread.

Many Italian households keep a jar of Nutella in their pantry, making it a go-to choice for a quick and sweet start to the day.

Quick Fact: While Nutella is commonly enjoyed as a spread, it has inspired a myriad of uses in Italian cuisine. From being an ingredient in various desserts to a filling for pastries and a topping for gelato, Nutella’s versatility extends far beyond the breakfast table.

– Luca

Italian Breakfast Coffee Culture

Italian breakfast coffee with steamed milk
Milky coffees are preferred for breakfast in Italy – but usually till 11 am.

A robust and aromatic cup of coffee is an indispensable part of an Italian breakfast. Coffee is an essential component of a traditional Italian breakfast, with espresso, cappuccino, and macchiato being popular choices enjoyed across the country.

Understanding the nuances of Italian coffee types and culture reveals how these varied types of coffee are savored during breakfast.

Espresso – A Morning Shot

Espresso, a potent, concentrated coffee, is a morning energy booster for numerous Italians. To achieve the perfect espresso, the process involves:

  1. Pre-heating the espresso machine and cup
  2. Grinding fresh coffee beans
  3. Weighing the coffee grounds
  4. Distributing and tamping the coffee grounds in the portafilter
  5. Brewing for 25-30 seconds

An authentic Italian espresso is renowned for its robust flavor and crema, achieved by using 6-7 grams of robusta beans for every 25 ml of coffee.

Cappuccino – Milky Coffees Only Until 11 am

Another favored Italian breakfast beverage is Cappuccino, a frothy coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk.

While it may have originated in Austria, cappuccino has become a morning favorite in Italy, and many people drink cappuccino only until 11 am.

This custom is based on the belief that cappuccinos contain too much milk for consumption later in the day.

Macchiato – Pairs Great with Cornetto.

Macchiato, blending a shot of espresso with a small quantity of milk, provides another method for Italians to relish their morning coffee.

A macchiato emphasizes the espresso, with just a hint of milk to “mark” the coffee. In contrast, a latte macchiato features more milk, creating a distinct layering effect.

Combining a macchiato and a cornetto creates a balanced and satisfying morning meal, with the intense flavor of the macchiato complementing the sweet and flaky texture of the cornetto.

Related posts you might want to read:

Italian Coffee Types and Etiquette – A Practical Overview 
22 Finest Italian Coffee Brands – From Big Names to Small Speciality Roasters.

Regional Specialties: Unique Italian Breakfast Foods

Italy’s varied culinary traditions influence its breakfast foods, with regional specialties highlighting the distinctive flavors and ingredients of different parts of the country.

From pastries enjoyed during Italian holidays, like panettone and pandoro, to lesser-known local treats, Italy’s regional breakfast offerings are a testament to the country’s rich food culture.

Some examples of regional breakfast specialties include frittelle, served during Carnival, zeppole di San Giuseppe for Father’s Day, and Colomba during Easter. The variety of unique breakfast foods in Italy reflects the country’s diverse culinary traditions and history.

Here’s a bit more on these regional Italian breakfast foods;

  1. Frittelle: Frittelle, commonly enjoyed during Carnival season, are delectable Italian doughnuts. These deep-fried delights are often made with a light, airy batter, sometimes enriched with raisins or other ingredients. After frying, they are dusted with powdered sugar, creating a sweet and indulgent treat that captures the festive spirit of Carnival.
  2. Zeppole di San Giuseppe: Zeppole di San Giuseppe, a traditional pastry associated with Father’s Day (celebrated on March 19th in Italy), are heavenly fritters. Made from choux pastry, they are deep-fried to golden perfection and adorned with sugar dusting. Some variations include a filling of custard or ricotta, adding a rich and creamy element to these delightful treats.
  3. Colomba: Colomba, meaning “dove” in Italian, is an iconic Easter sweet bread. Shaped like a dove, symbolizing peace and renewal, this fluffy and moist cake is studded with candied fruits and often topped with a crunchy almond glaze. Colomba is a cherished Easter tradition, offering a delicious and symbolic addition to the holiday table.


I’ve explored the delightful world of traditional Italian breakfast foods, from sweet pastries like cornetto and brioche to the importance of coffee culture and regional specialties across Italy.

I’ve also written about healthier alternatives, such as cereals, yogurt, and fresh fruit, for a more wholesome start to the day.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey into Italian breakfast culture and feel inspired to try some of these delicious foods for yourself. Buon appetito!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a traditional Italian breakfast?

A cornetto croissant filled with cream, custard, jam, or chocolate spread is served with coffee for a traditional Italian breakfast.

What are three traditional breakfast dishes?

Traditional breakfast dishes in America include pancakes, waffles, omelets, and cereal. Eggs, bacon (often pancetta), and toast are also famous. These delicious foods provide fuel for a great start to the day.

What is the difference between a cornetto and a croissant?

A cornetto is similar to a croissant but typically filled with cream, jam, chocolate, or almond paste, whereas a croissant is generally just butter and flour.

What types of coffee are popular for breakfast in Italy?

In Italy, espresso, cappuccino, and macchiato are popular coffee choices for breakfast. Read about all these types here.

What are some healthier Italian breakfast options?

Opt for healthier Italian breakfast options like cereals, yogurt, and fresh fruit to start your day on the right foot.


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