Matt Holden

You don't need an Alitalia ticket to drink coffee Italian-style.
You don't need an Alitalia ticket to drink coffee Italian-style.

You're striding down a busy city street, 8.45am, clutching a $4 chain-store latte in one hand, iPad and umbrella in the other, bag over your shoulder, your iPhone is ringing and you're trying to winkle it out of the bag without spilling coffee-coloured milk down your front …

What's wrong with this picture?

For a start, Italophiles will tell you, it's a ''caffe latte'', not a ''lar-tay'', and if you were Italian and wanted a milk coffee (usually in the morning), it would be a cappuccino, because caffe latte is what you ''eat'' (not drink) at home.

Chances are you'll also enjoy some kind of pastry with that: maybe un cornetto marmellata, a soft croissant filled with apricot jam.

Then there's the takeaway: in a city full of smart cafes like Milan, Torino, Rome (or Melbourne and Sydney), why wouldn't you find a couple of extra minutes to pause and enjoy your coffee standing at the bar, in comfortable contemplation of nothing much?

Later in the day, when it's time for a caffeine boost, you'll be knocking back a short black - un caffe - also standing up at the bar, and parting with about €1.

But you don't need an Alitalia ticket to do it Italian-style. In Melbourne, you can step up to the register at Carlton Espresso, where a young Roman on a working holiday (back home it would be her steely-eyed nonna) will take $2 and send you to the end of the bar for an espresso: three sips of viscous, dark roasted arabica (with maybe just a touch of robusta for that bike-tyre sweetness and extra caffeine kick). Enjoy it while you watch the barista pull shots and call out ''Caffe, grazie!'' (that's ''Coffee up!'') and guys in smart suits swagger in and bark their orders.

In the city, you'll be heading to Sbriga in Little Lonsdale Street, a lovely woody replica of a standup Roman espresso bar, where owner Mario Simeone has recently had to add a few stools for locals who refuse to take their short blacks on the hoof.

For a specialty coffee version of the standup there's Traveller in Crossley Street - another smart Melbourne take on the wood-panelled espresso bar - and our old favourite, Cup of Truth in the Flinders Street subway: it really is standing room only down there.

Sydney Italophiles can try Baker Brothers in York Street, where a stand-up-at-the-bar Veneziano espresso will set you back just one dollar; and in Surry Hills there’s Reformatory Caffeine Lab, a narrow, dark and funky space with a full-length bar and wall-mounted tables for leaning against with an espresso or filter brew of their specialty beans. It’s strictly standing room only.