‘Aperitivo hour’ must be the best time of the day in Italy. ‘Going for an aperitivo’ can be an event in itself. Currently a new trend in the London social dining scene, Aperitivo is definitely something the British lack; an Italian Aperitivo is not just a cold beer and a bowl of crisps, it is something a little better than the average happy hour. Essentially, what I and many others like about Aperitivo is that it is a typical Italian activity. The Italian ‘Dolce Vita’ way of life, the importance of being in the company of friends and family over an evening drink and snacks before dinner. Bars and cafés turn into lively, crowded places, full of people coming straight from their work, making the most of their free evening.
The trend of the Aperitivo is said to have started in the North of Italy. Italians say Milan do them best. However, the generally accepted idea is that it was conceived in Torino in 1796, alongside the creation of the vermouth liqueur. The concept is having a bitter drink paired with small snacks gained momentum in 1920s Milan. Gaspare Campari opened a bar in the 1800’s in Milan and served his drink eventually mixing it with vermouth and soda to create the classic Americano. Milan is also where the Martini family hails from where they invented their famed Martini bianco and Martini dry.
The word “aperitivo” originates from the Latin “aperire” meaning “to open” with the idea that these drinks and nibbles stimulate one’s appetite. Italians say L’appetito viene mangiando “Appetite comes when you eat.”
The choice of beverage should spark the appetite, without overwhelming the senses. The drink should usually be bitter or dry, keeping it crisp, clean and light with the belief that bitter is better.
Negroni (Campari, Rosso Vermouth and Gin) The Florentine cocktail. Count Camillo Negroni in 1920s asked for an American with gin instead of soda.
Americano (Campari, Rosso Vermouth and Soda)
Spritz (Aperol or Campari and Prosecco and Soda) Venetian Aperitivo. Loved in Florence, and a personal favourite.
A chilled glass of Processo sometimes is the best option.
Most places have a selection of food, where one should simply enjoy sampling with their drink while socializing and stimulating the appetite. This is very common now for certain bars to create ‘Apericena’ which is having an Aperitivo and cena (dinner).
Stuzzichini (canapé) savoury plates include Italian breads –crostini, focaccia, bruschetta, also known as Crostini in Tuscany also Italian cured meats and cold cuts – local cheeses, arancini rice balls, grilled vegetables are also offered.
Volume in Piazza Santo Spirito, this Piazza is generally the go to place for a drink in the evening, where you will mix with a local and young crowd. La Rivalta, is the perfect spot along the River Arno, to catch the sunset, with a selection of cocktails and food, with a DJ on some nights of the week, another place with a stylish crowd. Il Rifullo in the San Niccolò area also does another great apericena, with a delicious selection of warm and cold dishes to choose from and with a fun and relaxed atmosphere-the terrace is a great location for group gatherings in the summer months. I love roof terraces so La Terrazza at the Hotel Continental is good place for a calm and cosy aperitivo, it has a beautiful view of the river and the Duomo, however Sesto on Arno at the Hotel Westin Excelsior, beats it to a great outside seating area with wonderful views of Florence, while indulging in a selection of food and drinks. I will have to find somewhere in London, where they hold an aperitivo o apericena, as I’m sure I will miss this cultural indulgence when I return to the UK!