Roughly the equivalent of the U.S. custom of “happy hour,” Italy’s “aperitivo” is an experience to be relished. Read on, so you will be prepared the next time you’re in Italy.
Timeframe: Since Europeans eat later than Americans, aperitivo is later as well. A typical aperitivo lasts from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. The purpose of the aperitivo is to open the palate for dinner, which can be consumed anytime between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Some establishments also offer a lunchtime aperitivo that lasts from roughly 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Food and Drink: Italian aperitivos come with an assortment of “extras” that are included in the price of your drink; olives and potato chips, pizza, salads, hot pasta, prosciutto, pastries or fresh mozzarella. While you could certainly fill up on what’s offered, the custom is to take a few things to eat, but to save room for dinner.
Typical Aperitivos: Campari, Italy’s “national liquor,” is a bitter red liquor that is a staple in many traditional aperitivo cocktails. A Negroni is made from gin, vermouth and Campari and typically garnished with an orange wedge. An Americano is a combination of vermouth, Campari and soda (photo). A Spritz is made from sparkling wine and Campari. If cocktails aren’t your style, wine is always an option as an aperitivo. Sparkling or sweet wines are often served as aperitivos— such as Prosecco (white), Spumante (white), or Fragolino (red).
Cost: Whereas drinks are usually discounted during an American happy hour, the price stays the same during aperitivo. However, rather than loading up on appetizer deals like you would in the states, the snacks are included in the price of the aperitivo. Depending on the type of establishment, food offered, and alcohol used, a cocktail can range anywhere from 5 euros to 12 euros and a glass of wine ranges from 3 euros to 10 euros. In general, tipping is not expected.
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