SHARE
COPY LINK

ITALY

A beginner’s guide to aperitivo in Italy

The Italians go crazy for them – and it's easy to see why. Here, The Local's Patrick Browne gives you the lowdown on one of Italy's most treasured rituals: the aperitivo.

A beginner's guide to aperitivo in Italy
Apericena or Aperitivo? Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

They are long leisurely affairs to be undertaken with friends in early or late evening, the food is usually more than decent and they are affordable even on the most meagre of budgets. All you need to do is buy a drink and your food is free. Shall we?

I'd really love to go out to dinner, but I can't afford it…

It's only going to cost €5-12 depending where we go. Are you sure you don't want to come? I know an excellent place….

Okay then. But it's my first time…

Well don't look so nervous. We're only going to the pub for an apericena.

Apericena? I thought you said aperitivo?

Good point. A standard pre-dinner drink becomes an aperitivo when it is accompanied by more than just nuts or crisps. Maybe a small starter of goats cheese, olives, or something like that.

You can be sure you're at an apericena, however, when your drink is accompanied by dinner in the form of an all-you-can-eat buffet. Confusingly, the word aperitivo is often used to describe this too, which will probably annoy the traditionalists but hey-ho, we didn't make the rules.

Now that that's out the way we're ready to get going. All you need to do is order a drink.

But what should I drink?

For a traditional style aperitivo, a light (usually dry or bitter drink) will be consumed. Favourites include, Campari, Vermouth, Negroni, Aperol Spritz and Prosecco – but anything goes really. If you hit the right bar at the right time you can have your aperitivo with anything from a Weissbier to a mojito.


Photo: Paco Serinelli/AFP

Remember that it's going to be accompanying food, so excessively sweet or creamy cocktails are a no-no. But by far the most important thing is to take it slowly, and socialize.

Socialize? I normally just inhale my food and down my pint of lager…

No. The apericena/aperitivo is a social event. It's where you go on a first date, or to catch up with an old friend.

They're great if you're on a limited budget, too, so expect to find lots of hard-up and hungry students, travellers, and young professionals – all of whom will be chatting away noisily. So be prepared to talk.

What else do I need to know?

The aperitivo has an interesting history, and despite its popularity across different areas of Italy it is very much associated with Turin. Although some anthropologists claim the idea of a pre-dinner drink stretches back as far as the ancient Egyptians, the creator of the modern day aperitivo is generally credited as being Antonio Benedetto Carpano.

Carpano is known as the inventor of Vermouth which he first made in Turin in 1786 by infusing Moscato white wine with herbs and spices. Apparently the drink was considered perfect for opening the stomach before a good meal.

Within no time at all, the shop where Antonio worked on in piazza Castello was the most popular bar in Turin. Fast forward a couple of hundred years and the aperitivo culture is still very much part of daily life in Italy..

Thanks! My new friends loved that aperitivo story. But I'm still hungry and have finished my food. What can I do?

Look, the idea is to eat until you are full. The plates are normally tiny plastic things, so don't feel bad about going back for seconds (or thirds). You don't need to buy another drink.

In fact, you probably shouldn't buy another drink. Usually during aperitivo hours the prices of drinks are inflated because that's how the bars make their money.

READ ALSO: Five great spots for aperitivo on a budget in Milan


Photo: oneinchpunch/Deposit Photos

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

FOOD & DRINK

Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

If you're visiting Italy in autumn, don't miss the many local food and drinks fairs held around the country. Here are some to visit this October.

Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

One of the best things about visiting Italy in the autumn is having the opportunity to attend a sagra, a type of harvest festival or fair centred around one particular food or drink item local to the town hosting it.

sagra has a fairly broad definition: it could last for several weeks or one day, and might consist of anything from a raucous celebration with music and dancing to a lone food stall with a few wooden benches. It will usually be hosted in a field or a piazza, and entry is free.

READ ALSO: Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy

What all sagre have in common is the focus on eating and drinking fresh local produce, and the assurance that you won’t leave unsated.

Now, the good news is that October is by far the month with the most sagre, with a wealth of events taking place throughout the country that are worth seeking out if you’re in the area. So, here are some of the best sagre happening across Italy this month.

Campania 

Sagra della Castagna (chestnut festival), 7th-16th October in Calvanico, Salerno.  

Festa della Mela Annurca (‘annurca‘ apple festival), 28th-29th October in Valle di Maddaloni, Caserta.

Sagra del Cinghiale (boar festival), every Friday of the month in Dugenta, Benevento.

Emilia Romagna

Sagra della Salamina da Sugo (salami festival), 5th-9th October in Poggio Renatico, Ferrara.

Sagra del Vino Romagnolo (Romagna’s wine festival), 6th-9th October in Cotignola, Ravenna.

Sagra del Tartufo (truffle festival), 7th-9th October in Bondeno, Ferrara.

Sagra dell’Anguilla (eel festival), first three weekends of the month in Comacchio, Ferrara.

Lazio

Sagra dell’Uva Cesanese del Piglio (‘Cesanese‘ grapes festival), 30th September-2nd October in Piglio, Frosinone.

Enorvinio (wine festival), 2nd October in Orvinio, Rieti.

Castelli di Cioccolato (chocolate castles festival), 7th-9th October, Marino, Rome.

Sagra delle Tacchie ai Funghi Porcini (‘tacchie‘ pasta and porcini mushroom festival), first two weekends of the month in Bellegra, Rome.

A street seller prepares roasted chestnuts in Rome.

Roasted chestnuts are a staple of Italy’s October ‘sagre’. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Lombardy

Castagnata a Caglio (chestnut festival), 2nd-9th October in Caglio, Como.

Festival della Mostarda (mustard festival), 15th October-30th November in Cremona.

Fasulin de l’Oc con le Cudeghe (beans and pork rind festival), 29th-31st October in Pizzighettone, Cremona.

Sicily

Sagra delle Pesche (peach festival), 1st-2nd October in Leonforte, Enna.

Festa della Nocciola (hazelnut festival), 5th-6th October in Novara di Sicilia, Messina.

Funghi Fest (Mushroom festival), 21st-23rd October in Castelbuono, Palermo.

Piedmont

Sagra della Castagna (chestnut festival), 2nd October in Mathi, Turin.

Sagra del Ciapinabò (Jerusalem artichoke festival), 8th-9th October in Carignano, Turin.

Cioccolato nel Monferrato (chocolate festival), 16th October in Altavilla Monferrato, Alessandria.

Chocolate fair in Milan, Italy.

A number of chocolate festivals take place up and down the boot in October. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Tuscany

Sagra del Fungo Amiatino (‘amiatino‘ mushroom festival), 7th-9th, 15th-16th October in Bagnolo, Grosseto.

Sagra delle Frugiate (roasted chestnuts festivals), 9th and 16th October in Pescia, Pistoia.

Boccaccesca (local food festival), 14th-16th October in Certaldo, Florence.

Sagra del Tordo (local food festival), 29th-30th October in Montalcino, Siena.

Puglia

Sagra del Calzone (calzone festival), 14th-16th October in Acquaviva delle Fonti, Bari.

Veneto

Festa del Baccalà (cod festival), 30th September-2nd October and 7th-9th October in Montegalda, Vicenza.

Festa delle Giuggiole (jujubes festival), 2nd and 9th October in Arquà Petrarca, Padua.

Mele a Mel (apple festival), 7th-9th October in Mel, Belluno.

Festa della Patata (potato festival), all Sundays of the month in Tonezza del Cimone, Vicenza.

Umbria

Primi d’Italia (national first courses festival), 29th September-2nd October in Foligno.

Sagra del Sedano Nero e della Salsiccia (black celery and sausage festival), 15th-16th October in Trevi, Perugia.

This list is not exhaustive. Did we miss out your favourite October sagra? Leave a comment below to let us know.

SHOW COMMENTS