If you've ever been to Italy, you may have noticed that there's something different about their Happy Hour. It's called aperitivo, and it's a time-honored Italian tradition that's definitely worth checking out. Essentially it's a pre-meal drink that is meant to "open" the stomach before dining.
What does aperitivo mean?
In Italian, aperitivo literally means “to open” and is meant to open up the appetite. It's more than just having a drink before dinner though; it's also about enjoying good company in an informal setting. In most parts of Italy, from 6pm to 9pm you'll find bars filled with people drinking and eating delicious snacks.
Aperitivo is an Italian tradition of enjoying a drink before dinner
Aperitivo is an Italian tradition is such an important Italian tradition. To Italians, supper without aperitivo just doesn't happen - it’s like a crime against nature. And why not? It's a social solution to something that can be quite taxing on our daily grind.
If you think about it, what better way to unwind after a long day than with a refreshing drink and light snacks to get your appetite going? In other words, it's literally what gets us fired up for dinner! Get ready for one of my favorite rituals in all of Italy: Aperitivo time!
It's a great way to unwind after a long day or week
At the end of a long and tedious day, or week for that matter, there is no greater pleasure than indulging in something to unwind. Often times, we choose work over relaxation because of our lack of time and energy, but on those days where I'm just too exhausted to think straight, the last thing I want to do is to add anything more onto my plate.
Aperitivo can be enjoyed with friends, family, or even by yourself
Aperitivo is more than a drink, it's a social custom that brings people together around bar and restaurant tables from Italy to the world. There's no single way to enjoy aperitivo - friends can share their snacks when spending time together or you can just look and see what bar staff have laid out on the bar while they sip an Aperol Spritz alone.
But either way, it has become an Italian institution during the afternoon - one that you really must experience when in Italy.
What kind of drinks are served during aperitivo?
Throughout history, an aperitivo has been characterized as a light and bubbly alcoholic drink with bitter undertones. The much celebrated Aperol spritz is the perfect example of such; made from Prosecco, Aperol, and refreshing sparkling mineral water for that added sparkle – it's sure to tantalize your taste buds!.
There’s no one-size-fits-all aperitivo drink, and what’s enjoyed is completely up to the individual. Some classic drinks served during aperitivo are Aperol Spritz, Negroni and Campari. Aperol Spritz is a mix of Prosecco, Aperol liqueur, soda water and a slice of orange. The Negroni is a mix of gin, sweet vermouth and bitters garnished with an orange slice or twist. And the classic Campari is a bittersweet Italian liqueur.
What are typical foods served during aperitivo?
Aperitivo usually consists of light snacks, some bars or restaurants will give you a beautiful array of cheeses, bread, crackers, meats, and olives, while others might just give you some potato chips.
On an intimate evening at your favorite bar, the olives, chips, salami and other bar snacks seem like a feast fit for a king.
What time is aperitivo?
Aperitivo traditionally starts around 6 pm and goes on until 8 pm, but this varies depending on the locality. In bigger cities like Rome or Milan, it can start as early as 5 pm and in smaller towns, it can last even longer.
The main point is that aperitivo lasts for two hours with an uninterrupted break before dinner. It is a great way to gather with friends, enjoy some drinks and light snacks, socialize and relax before dinner.
The beauty of this custom is that it is flexible and can be adapted to any lifestyle; from early-risers craving an afternoon break to night owls who prefer their break at sunset.
Is Aperol and aperitivo the same thing?
No, Aperol and aperitivo are not the same thing. Aperol is an Italian liqueur that is commonly used to make the famous Aperol Spritz cocktail, which is often enjoyed at aperitivo hour.
Whereas, Aperitivo is the traditional Italian pre-dinner social custom/hour that is characterized by light drinks and snacks. So while Aperol may be a part of aperitivo, it's not the same thing. Enjoying an Aperol Spritz during aperitivo is just one way to experience this Italian tradition.
How often do Italians have aperitivo?
Italians enjoy aperitivo once or twice a week, usually on the weekend.
There's something special about the aperitivo hour. It's a time to relax and unwind, catch up with friends or family, and enjoy a delicious drink. If you're looking for something to snack on while enjoying your aperitivo, try some traditional Italian foods like olives or cheese. What's your favorite drink to enjoy during aperitivo?
Aperitivo Tips & Facts
- The most common drink people get is Aperol spritz
- When you buy a drink for aperitivo the snacks are supposed to be free
- The average price for an Aperol Spritz should be 6 euros, if you are paying more than 8 you are getting ripped off (unless you are in some fancy hotel)
- Don't get fooled by the people who hold signs and menus in front of restaurants to try and lure you in, this is a common marketing strategy in Italy and you will be sure to pay a higher price for the drinks.
- In the Veneto region Aperol spritz is 3 euros and in the center of Naples it is only 1!
Aperitivo in Italy is typically around €6-15 depending on the city and type of drink ordered. Generally, it includes a small snack or two along with the drink. In some parts of Italy, especially in popular tourist destinations like Rome and Florence, you may find a bit more expensive options that include more elaborate snacks or appetizers.
When you go to a bar in Italy, the easiest way to order an aperitivo is by asking "Vorrei un aperitivo, per favore" (I'd like an aperitivo please). You will likely be given a menu of drinks, but you don't choose the snacks, they choose it for you.
When Italians are toasting with an aperitivo or any kind of drink, they say "Cin cin!" which is the equivalent of saying "Cheers!" or "Salute!" ("To your health!").
Aperitivo in Florence is usually served from 6 pm to 9 pm, although there are some cafes that offer it earlier and others that may stay open later.
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