Aperitif in Italy: All you need to know

We all have that friend who likes to boast about their trips abroad and then says things like, “Oh, but you HAVE to try this!” right? Well, suppose your friend’s recently been to Italy. In that case, they’re probably asking you to try an Aperitif in Italy (called Aperitivo) because that’s what made their entire trip.

And you’re probably wondering, what even is an Aperitivo? And what makes it so special that your friend just can’t stop gushing about it? Well, if you’re stumped, don’t worry because we’re unraveling all the juicy secrets behind an Aperitivo in Italy, or as your friend would say before their trip to Italy: aperitif.

What even is Aperitivo?

Considering the word Aperitivo translates to aperitif, most assume it’s the basic drink before lunch/dinner that increases your appetite. And while it is partly the same, Aperitivo in Italy is a much different concept, or rather, a much bigger thing, because it’s much more than just opening up your stomach to food.

Aperitivo in Italy is like the American happy hour but much more versatile and meaningful. Although this drinking tradition happens between lunch and dinner and is now a time for Italian folks to enjoy small hor devours or finger foods over a glass of wine, Aperitivo in Italy is like a huge social phenomenon that takes over foreigners simply because of how amazing it is.

And that’s why every friend of yours that heads to Italy can’t stop talking about their experience of an Aperitivo in Italy.

Aperitif in Italy | Salty Snacks
Aperitif in Italy | Spritz

Aperitif in Italy is usually (but doesn’t have to be) a Spritz like Aperol or Campari with some salty snacks to nibble on. 

Why is an Aperitif in Italy a big deal?

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Why do the Italians care so much about Aperitivo? It’s literally a drink and a few snacks, right? Well, that’s how it began. Kind of.

You know the saying, when in Rome, do as the Romans do? According to Italian grandmas, Aperitivo in Italy began back in Rome when the Romans were still in power. The Romans were extremely fond of their food, so much so that they started eating appetizers washed down with wine before their meals.

Now, this was just a small habit that was picked up and was considered a way to warm up the stomach before big meals. It’s kind of like doing stretches before you actually begin working out.

But the idea remains even centuries later, and it’s not become a massive part of the local routine, no matter what time or day it is. Perhaps it’s the cultural roots, or maybe it’s just a habit Italians picked from their Nonna, but it’s one they’re incessantly doing.

What makes Aperitif in Italy so special?

Just imagine this: you’re out with a friend, and both of you decide to eat ice cream from a specific place. While eating, you vent to each other and talk about your life. When you both leave, you realize how amazing it was, and you’d like to go back to the same spot and just vent about your life. So you do that, only you do it every day and for as long as you can. Because that spot isn’t just an ice cream parlor; it encompasses friendship and loyalty and has unique memories.

That’s the kind of experience Aperitivo in Italy gives. Although you may not have tried it before, for Italians, it’s all about plopping down at a cafe or bar, ordering a few drinks, and enjoying tasty salty snacks. Of course, you don’t have to be social, but the idea that you’re not alone and everyone is doing the same is oddly pleasing and comforting.
This is just part of why Aperitivo in Italy is so important. It’s also about keeping your appetite in check because Italians have a large gap between lunch and dinner. It’s also about hanging out at a local bar. For whatever reason, Aperitivo in Italy is a big thing, and you should celebrate it too.

Why You Should Try an Aperitif in Italy?

Why? There are tons of reasons why non-Italians should try Aperitivo in Italy, even if it’s just for a day:

No more hunger

Italy doesn’t compromise when it comes to its closing time. Italians typically have their lunch before 2 PM, so most restaurants and eateries are closed until dinner, which starts after 7 PM.

This means if you’re forgetful enough to delay lunch, you’re in for 5 hours worth of hunger pangs. Aperitivo is intended to satiate you until restaurants open again, so you won’t faint somewhere in the middle of the road because you didn’t have a timely lunch.

Learning the culture

Moving on from the objective pros of Aperitivo in Italy, it’s a wonderful way to learn about Italian culture. Aperitivo happens when everything is shut down, and only a few bars are open, so it’s kind of like if a secret store were to open up just to accommodate you during the Mexican siesta.

Just experiencing an Aperitivo in Italy makes you feel special and loved and gives you an insight into the powerful tradition.

Making friends

Of course, if you’re hanging at the bar before dinner, you’re bound to meet a few people like you. Aperitivo is a great way to introduce yourself to the locals, make friends, and even meet a few expats or foreigners like you.

Since bars and places are filled with people during times of an Aperitivo, you won’t feel an awkward emptiness, unlike the rest of the day.

No judgment

You’re drinking, the person next to you is drinking, and basically, the whole bar is drinking. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a drinking time where no one is shamed for picking up a wine glass when it’s just noon?

If you’re in Italy for a vacation, you’re in for a much greater time.

Drinks, drinks and drinks

And lastly, how can you not enjoy a tradition that’s all about drinking and getting slightly tipsy? Alright, sure, most Aperitivo are lightweight drinks. They are even bitter, so they pair well with salty snacks, but who’s going to deny drinks?



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