Starbucks stirs up controversy in Italy

Starbucks may jolt Italy

MILAN, Italy -- Starbucks is planning to open its first store in Italy in 2018, and that's stirring up controversy in the country where espresso was created.

In Italy, you don't hear the words "grande," "venti" or "frappuccino." Coffee is simple and straightforward.

"It's our way to enjoy the day," barista Maurizio Casula said.

But ask Casula about Starbucks' plans to open, and the tone changes.

"Can we cut it?" Casula said, making the "cut" gesture at his neck. "Can we cut it?"

The Seattle coffee giant makes for awkward conversation here.

"I like Starbucks, but it's like a big invasion," Casula said.

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Tradition runs deep here in Italy - and coffee is no exception - but with Starbucks planning to open its first store here in Milan next year, is Italian coffee culture under threat? After all, the cookies-and-cream frozen cappuccino is already here.

Even before Starbucks arrives, several American-style coffee shops are catering to changing tastes.

David Nathaniel has eight 12-ounce coffee joints and plans to open 100 in the next five years. There, customers can sit and drink from disposable cups.

"We don't want people to stay at the counter," Nathaniel said.

But isn't there something beautiful about that?

"Absolutely," Nathaniel said, "but there's plenty in Italy like that, so why not give Italians the opportunity of having an alternative?"

We found some Americans lamenting the looming U.S. import.

"I'm not a huge fan of Starbucks myself," said Bob Hodge from Ohio. "They've run a lot of the mom-and-pop coffee shops out of the U.S."

Now the 150,000-plus small coffee shops here may need to concoct something else strong to hold their ground.