The rules of Italian aperitifs
The aperitif is a traditional Italian evening pastime. It consists approximately in the following: to have a glass of wine at the end of the day, but before dinner. The first point is that most Italian aperitif bars start at 6 p.m. Of course, in large cities such as Rome, Florence, or Milan, such establishments are open in the morning, but in small towns bars are not open during the daytime.
People begin to arrive at the bars around 6:30 p.m., by which time the bars have all sorts of snacks on offer, some for free and some for a nominal fee.
Drinks depend, of course, on the region of Italy. Spritz Aperol (read the main article: about the drink) or Prosecco is common in Veneto, Lambrusca in Emilia-Romagna, Pinot Grigio, Tokay Friulano and local Merlot and Sauvignon varieties in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, red Sangiovese wines in Tuscany or Rome. But still during the evening aperitif white wines and cocktails based on them are ordered more often than red wines.
By the way, in some bars the most popular wine is poured with a machine used in other countries to pour beer.
Pictured: pouring Prosecco from a machine in a bar
One more thing. Today, imported Belgian beers with original flavors like ginger or berry are becoming more and more popular in Italian bars.
So, appetizers during the aperitifs are divided into paid and free. The free appetizers always include chips, very often olives and sometimes a small sandwich. Here it all depends on the generosity of the owner and the status of the institution. For example, in the obscenely expensive by Italian standards cafe Emporio Armani (located on Via Manzoni in Milan) they serve such generous snacks to a glass of Prosecco that they can easily replace a light dinner.
In general in Milan, aperitifs are treated responsibly, in some places in the Navigli area they accompany the drink with a mini buffet, where you can even serve yourself some pasta. Another generous city in terms of free snacks was Trieste: here, in addition to chips and olives bars offer all kinds of sandwiches, and in the bars of Florence treat free nuts.
Pictured: Spritz and chips – a classic Venetian aperitif
However, don’t get too cocky at the table with the free appetizers. Of course, no one will count the number of your approaches to the table, but in Italy it is considered improper to take more than one snack with one glass of wine. As for appetizers, wide spread are all kinds of sandwiches: with sausage, salmon, and in addition tramezzini – sandwiches of white bread stuffed with mozzarella and tomato, tuna, bacon or salami.
Pictured: tramezzino – classic Italian sandwiches
For the unusual snacks, olivia asvolane – olives stuffed with meat and deep fried, and the baccala mantecato, a popular snack around Venice: finely chopped boiled codfish with sauce on toasted slices of white bread.
Pictured: olivia asvolane: deep-fried olives with meat stuffing.
HOW TO DRINK?
In Italy, people drink mostly on the streets. That is, they order wine in an establishment and sit with a glass of wine and a plate of snacks somewhere nearby: on a bench, by the fence, or on the stone steps of a nearby church (sitting on stones is not considered harmful here for some reason). In some cases, young people sit right on the pavement, and everyone drinks wine not from plastic cups, but from decent long-necked flutes.
Another curious detail, the area adjacent to the bars is tacitly divided into zones, so you should drink and eat at the bar, where you made the order. When the glass and plate are empty leave them in the same place and the workers will identify your glass and take it away.
The difference between a proper aperitif bar is very simple: the presence of a crowd at the entrance. People of all ages and social status visit such places: from professors to students, many take infants with them (while adults relax babies sleep in strollers), and those who have dogs, combine an evening stroll with a four-legged friend with an aperitif.
In the photo: Classic crowd at the entrance of the bar
But in Rome, Piazza Campo dei Fiori (with a monument to Giordano Bruno, who was burned in the center) and Trastevere are considered classic places for an evening aperitif.
In the photo: dogs are also present at the aperitif.
In Milan the best place for an aperitif is the Navigli: there are lots of bars and restaurants around the last canal in Milan, with antique stores and stalls selling antique things taken from grandma’s coffer. All of the bars have summer verandas, so you don’t have to sit on the steps.
Pictured: Navigli neighborhood, Milan
If you don’t want to go to Navigli (it’s a long way from the center), there are some great bars in the Moscova area as well. Although they are pretty sleazy, they are the classics (in Italian terms) for an aperitif.
On the photo: Piazza Santa Margareta, Venice
Piazza Santa Margareta and the bars around the Rialto Bridge are the main aperitif places in Venice. The bars are small, so at any time of the year young people from the University of Venice prefer to drink in the street.
Pictured: cafe in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, Florence
In Florence, pleasant bars and cafes can be found in Piazza Sant’ Ambrogio, with locals picking up drinks and snacks and relaxing on the steps of the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, located right there.