Aperitivo is a huge part of the Italian lifestyle, yet many visitors seem to miss this fun experience. Italians love to socialise and enjoy a good cocktail, but they rarely drink without food. That’s where aperitivo comes in handy. It’s also a great way to enjoy delicious Italian foods if you’re on a budget.
What is Aperitivo?
When you order a glass of wine, Campari or anything else alcoholic any time of the day, you will be served something to nibble on. Aperitivo is served in the early evening so people can stop by for a snack and a drink straight from work or before they go out for dinner. It is a great way to catch up with friends and socialise.
Aperitivo food can be anything from simple olives, crisps and nuts to quality cold cuts, crostini, cheeses and salads. During aperitivo hours, your usual drink might cost a few euros extra as the food comes with it. You can expect a small buffet or a plate of snacks to be served with the drink.
If the buffet is more extensive it may also be called an apericena. In this case, the food is often served throughout the night and the cost for the drink is around €10–12. Apericena is a mix of an aperitivo and dinner – basically the buffet offers enough food for you to skip dinner. Buffet aperitivo can have anything from pasta salads, meat dishes, dips and sandwiches to cold cuts. This version of an aperitivo is new and more popular amongst the younger crowd. The plates are small, and it is polite not to stack up the food but to revisit the buffet more often.
The original idea of aperitivo was to increase the appetite before dinner, to eat just enough to still feel hungry for dinner. Therefore, many Italians prefer little nibbles and smaller platters over buffets.
It is not unusual for people to spread outside the venue, especially during the summer months. Some venues don’t have much seating outdoors, so you can expect to sit on the kerb or on a wall – this is a very Italian way of enjoying an aperitivo as it is a very relaxed occasion.
The word aperitivo can also be used to describe various drinks enjoyed pre-dinner. The traditional drinks include vermouth, Negroni, Americano, Aperol Spritz, Prosecco and a range of red or orange bitters such as Campari, Aperol and Contratto Bitter, which are all served with soda, Prosecco or an orange juice. Today, aperitivo drinks can be anything from a glass of wine to Mojito to G&T.
If you do not want to include the food but only to enjoy a drink, you should specify this when ordering your drinks.
Where to enjoy an aperitivo in Florence?
Signorvino – Via Dei Bardi, 46/r – 50125 Firenze
Signorvino is actually a wine shop, so their range of wines is excellent. You can buy a selection of small platters, meats and cheeses for only €5 or choose from tasting menus for €10. If you get lucky there might be a seat outside by the river Arno overlooking Ponte Vecchio.
Odeon Bistro – Piazza Degli Strozzi 8r – 50123 Florence
Next to the cinema in the city centre is a bistro/bar with outdoor seating (heated during colder months) that offers a tasty aperitivo buffet. The cocktails are also nice (try one of their vodka cocktails). The venue gets quite busy, so booking is always recommended. Occasionally they offer special aperitivos, such as an Indian feast. Aperitivo is served between 6.30pm and 9.30pm and costs €10.
Maestri di Fabbrica – Borgo degli Albizi 68R – 50122 Firenze
Definitely one of the most extensive aperitivos in Florence city centre. A large buffet consists of hot foods such as lasagne, pasta dishes and roast potatoes, a variety of salads, sandwiches, meats and much more. This is more of an apericena than an aperitivo, but it is up to you if you prefer to go for dinner after. Buffet and drink only €8.
The venue also sells glass-, kitchen- and tableware, soaps and many handmade items. An interesting venue to pop by for a drink even without the aperitivo.
Mago Balducci – Via Guglielmo Marconi 24R – 50131 Firenze
A small but vibrant bar in the Campo di Marte area. They serve an aperitivo buffet all night, making it a perfect venue to catch up with friends whilst having a casual meal. People often spread out into the street (even in the winter). There aren’t many seats so if you want to sit you should make a booking. (Just make sure it is not a night Fiorentina is playing as the venue will be extra busy!)
During warm summer nights it is pleasant to eat outside even if you might need to stand. They create pretty much any cocktail you can think of and obviously all the classics. Their gin selection is rather small, but excellent. You only pay for the drink, but it is polite to buy a second drink if you are planning on having a full meal. The price of the aperitivo varies depending on your drink (not expensive though, I once paid only €4!).
Uva Nera – Borgo Ognissanti 25 Rosso – 50123 Firenze
A cute wine bar which serves an organic aperitivo. All their meats, cheeses and other foods are local and organic. They have great Tuscan wines and a small selection of artisanal beer. The décor is ‘shabby-chic’ and each piece of furniture is actually for sale. Every Thursday they offer an ‘Aperibio’, which includes a vegetarian aperitivo menu and wines to match the foods. Price for aperitivo is €12.
Negroni Bar – Via Dei Renai 17/R – 50125 Firenze
The clue is in the name… A venue for a Negroni lover! Some of their combinations are rather unique, but mainly delicious. Try the hot Negroni or one of their lighter versions. You can help yourself from the aperitivo buffet for extra €4. Perfect aperitivo venue in Florence to stop by after visiting Piazzale Michelangelo.
Mercato Centrale – Piazza del Mercato Centrale 4, Via Dell’ariento – 50123 Firenze
Located at San Lorenzo in the middle of all the street vendors is a food market where you can take a seat, relax and choose from several food stalls. They have two bars and a wine bar serving a wide selection of drinks. A perfect venue for a little snack (I like to sit at the wine bar and enjoy their delicious open sandwiches with a glass of wine) or even for dinner when you can’t be bothered to sit in a restaurant.
Bella Blu – Via Lungo l’Affrico 96r, 50100 Firenze
This venue is further away from the city centre on the other side of the football stadium. You can expect delicious cocktails and a huge aperitivo (apericena) buffet served from 6.30pm until 10pm daily. Some days they focus on specific ingredients, such as fish or pork, but the spread is always big so there is something for everyone. Apericena is €12.50, but a second drink is €6 if you wish to keep eating for longer.
Habitat – Via Del Giglio 59, 51100 Firenze
Lovely venue for an aperitivo if you’re looking for somewhere to cool down in the San Lorenzo area. The spread is fairly small, but everything is delicious. They also offer a wide range of wine and cocktails, including an unique take on Negroni, made with red wine instead of vermouth. The bar is open until 2am.
If you are on holiday in Italy I recommend you try aperitivo in different venues. It gives you a great insight into Italian lifestyle.
Have you tried aperitivo when in Italy? What is your favourite pre-dinner drink?