Perhaps one of the coolest Italian traditions is aperitivo – or “pre-dinner drinks and snacks”. For students and budget travellers, it is often a sneaky way to eat on the cheap. For locals, however, it’s truly a way to get ready for or to “open the appetite” for dinner – which is usually only around 9-10pm.
Even though Italy is famous for having particular regional specialities, aperitivo is something you’ll find in almost every single town. The only difference might be the price – Milan, Rome, Venice, and Florence being the most expensive cities. If you travel to Italy without experiencing aperitivo, you’ve certainly missed out on one of the best cultural experiences.
Most bars and restaurants in Italy offer aperitivo between 6-9pm. Usually, you’d pay a set price for a drink and then you’ll either have the green light to help yourself at the buffet snack table, or you’ll be served some snacks with your drink at your table. Most places will put a markup on the drink in order to compensate for the snacks that are included.
The food selection varies from place to place but you could find anything on a buffet table ranging from fresh salads and cheeses to cold meats, bruschetta, a variety of bread, pasta, and pizzas. On a spread served with your drink at your table, you can expect anything from a selection of cheeses, cold cuts, nuts, olives and so forth, or simply some potato crisps and peanuts.
Having evolved from merely pre-dinner drinks and snacks (think chips and peanuts), it seems as though most bars have become so proud of their delectable aperitivo spreads that you have to have a lot of self-control as not to spoil your dinner appetite.
Typical aperitivo drinks include Aperol spritz, Campari spritz, Prosecco, vermut, Negroni, Americano.
In Milan you can expect to pay between €5 and €15, once again depending on the type of bar and snacks on offer. In smaller towns in the Veneto region, for example, you’d pay a mere €2-5 at some places.
Aperitivo is great for many reasons – apart from the obvious ones mentioned above. It’s an easy way to relax and socialise with friends, or to make friends if you’re a solo traveller. It’s also a great way to get to know a town by going ‘aperitivo hopping’ from place to place.