I worked for a while in Italian coffee shop in California. An international community lived in the area and we received visitors from virtually all over the world, including from South America, Asia, Europe and the East. We learned very quickly that “coffee” means quite a different thing to each of these nations. When an American person came to order and said that he wanted to have a coffee, we knew it meant a long, watery Americano in a large cup. On the other hand, when an Italian came in and said that he wanted to drink a cup of coffee, we learned quickly that he meant an espresso in a tiny cup.
Italians are very particular about food and coffee. They know exactly what portion is best for them and they don't tolerate much deviation. With food, well, there is nothing like too much for them; with coffee, the shorter it is, the better.
During my Italian trip, I was curious to see how short they drink their coffees, so. I took a picture of a single cup of coffee each time I visited a different city. Here are the results:
I guess the art behind it is how much essence you can squeeze into a capsule-size portion. I must say that in this regard, the Neapolitans take the trophy, followed closely by the Romans. Florentine people are quite relaxed about the shortness, and the more you get to the West, the more the coffee starts to look like 'normal' size, that is, closer to a Western European taste.
About their food, I found it extremely tasty no matter which part of Italy we ended up in. For my taste, the pizza was the best in Naples: the pasta in Rome; the bread in Modena; the risotto in Milan; and the cheese and salami in Florence.:)