A Guide to Italian Aperitivo

They say when in Rome, do as the Romans do. While you may not want to pick up a smoking habit or an excessive carb intake, you should definitely adopt the practice of the Italian aperitivo into your life.

For those that don’t know what aperitivo is, it’s very similar to hors d’oeuvres but significantly better. Aperitivo follows the concept that you should have a drink and a light snack before your dinner in order to stimulate the appetite. The event is incredibly social and meant to be spent with family and friends. Whether it’s telling stories, catching up or debating politics, you will find Italians sitting around a table and thoroughly enjoying the beginning to the end of their day.

It may be five o’clock somewhere but aperitivo is served between 7PM-9PM. Your first step is to order your drink which will be discounted. This can cost anywhere around $4-$10, it all depends on what you order. Next comes either a tray of food or unlimited access to a buffet of assorted items. While it may be considered a bit tacky to the Italians, people often skip dinner and just refill their plate at the buffet a few times. Aperitivo is served at both bars and restaurants so there is no shortage of it.

The Drink

You can get almost any sort of drink to participate in aperitivo. Coke products, beer, wine and liquor are all included, varying in prices. Beer tends to be the cheapest and liquor is unsurprisingly the most expensive. If you want the true authentic experience of aperitivo, you’ll want to order a Aperol or Campari based drink like an Aperol Spritz or Negroni Sbagliato. These aperitifs are both bitter so if you like a sweet drink, I would maybe try something else.

The Food

There is something about not having to pay for food that makes it taste even better. The type of food that a restaurant/bar serves varies from place to place. Some places will only bring nuts, olives, chips and focaccia to your tables. Others will have meats, cheeses, pasta, salad, vegetables, and pizza. My favorite place serves an amazing kidney bean salad and cous cous; I couldn’t get enough! The plates given for aperitivo are typically quite small so survey what’s out before you fill up too fast.

Where to go

During my time in Italy I was able to try some amazing aperitivos. If you’re in Rome go to Freni e Frizioni. I spent many nights at this bar drinking wine, taking plate after plate of food from their buffet and enjoying my time with friends in the bohemian Trastevere area of Rome. If you find yourself in Bologna, try Le Stanze. This hip bar is located in what was originally a private chapel of the Palazzo Bentivoglio. It’s beauty and grandeur are astounding. If you’re wandering the Renaissance streets of Florence, make your way to Golden View Open Bar. The elegance of the restaurant, the array of amazing food and the view of the Ponte Vecchio are absolutely breathtaking.

How to do it yourself

Just because you aren’t in Italy doesn’t mean you can’t experience aperitivo. It doesn’t matter if you’re in New York or Iowa, invite some friends over, drink, snack and have fun! Since coming home, I love to open a bottle of wine and put out prosciutto, salami, olives, crackers and cheese and have a great time. Take the beautiful concept of aperitivo and make it your own.

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