What is Aperitivo?

A stroll through the Eternal City is sure to bring you past several storefront signs reading “APERITIVO!” But what is Aperitivo? There is no literal translation, but a simple explanation would compare it to the likes of an American “Happy Hour” – but not quite. And, truth be told, if the sign does say “Happy Hour”, you’re probably closing in on a tourist trap and should look the other way.

Italian Aperitivo tends to run 7pm – 9pm and, rather than focusing on discounted prices, it’s all about the food (usually a buffet of light snacks which is included in the price of a cocktail) accompanied by classic aperitif cocktails.

So, what is an aperitif? It’s a pre-dinner alcoholic drink that is meant to stimulate one’s appetite (as opposed to a digestif, which aids digestion). Typical choices are light and fizzy drinks, often with a hint of bitters (like Campari or Aperol), but sparkling wine is a popular choice, as well. Match these spirits with some appetizers and you’ve got yourself an aperitivo!

Italy’s Classic Aperitifs:

Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritz

  • 75 ml prosecco
  • 50 ml Aperol
  • 25 ml soda water
  • Garnish with orange slice

This delightful orange concoction is not too heavy on the alcohol – although you can always substitute Campari for a bit more punch. When Venice was part of the Austrian Empire in the 1800s, the locals adopted the Austrian Spritzer, made of soda and white wine, and eventually added their own Italian flare with some bitter Aperol and a bit of orange – creating the timeless classic that you’ll catch Italians drinking on nearly every corner at sundown.

Americano

Americano

  • 1.5 oz Campari
  • 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3 oz soda water
  • Garnish: lemon twist or orange slice

To put it simply, this tasty beverage is made of equal parts Campari and sweet Vermouth on ice with soda. It offers a pleasant mix of bitter and sweet and, while it was created in the 1860’s in Milan, it gained international curiosity in the 20th century upon being the first cocktail mentioned in the James Bond novels!

Negroni

Negroni

  • 1.5 oz Campari
  • 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1.5 oz gin
  • Garnish: lemon twist or orange slice

Rumour has it that an affluent Count Camillo Negroni is responsible for this classic as, in the 1920s, he ordered an “Americano” with gin at a bar in Florence. The barmen must have thought he was onto something, as they added the invention to their menu and the “Negroni” was born! This treat is a bit stronger than an Americano and is recommended to be made with a high-quality gin, as that will make or break the sophisticated balance of this well-crafted aperitif.

Prosecco

Prosecco

A bit of bubbly wine is light and refreshing on the palate, pairs with a wide variety of foods, and tends to run a few euros cheaper than the mixed cocktails – the perfect choice for warm summer evenings!

Wine

When in Rome (Heck, when it Italy!) you can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned glass of vino. You can even grab a bottle to split with friends!

Cheers! Or, in Italian, “Salute”!

We hope you enjoy aperitivo like a local! Try some of our favourite aperitivo spots for a guaranteed great experience!

Experience Rome with the #1 Ranked Vatican Tour Company on Tripadvisor Since 2011!

visa logomastercard logoamerican expressdiscover logo
Facebook logoInstagram logo twitter logo

vatican partnertraveler's choice tripadvisorluxury travel award