Free Food and Delicious Drinks: The Southern Italian Aperitivo

I started this post last week as part of the “My Favorite Things” series on traditions I love in Southern Italy, but old memories kicked in and well, that post got long. So, last week I told you about my first aperitivo in Calabria and today I’m going to elaborate on the Aperitivo Experience,” something I think all travelers should enjoy in the bel paese.

What is an Aperitivo?
Technically, an aperitivo is a beverage Italians drink before a meal. It can either be alcoholic (alcolici) or non-alcoholic (analcolici) and can range from a variety of bottled beverages to wine or Prosecco to house specialties. However, regardless of the drink, the best thing about going out for aperitivi, besides the chance to hang out with friends and people-watch, is the assortment of food that is served with your drink.

What Drinks are Available During Aperitivo?
The list of available aperitivo drinks exceeds both the space I have in this post and my experiences, but here’s a quick list.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks:
Crodino
San Bittèr
Fruit juice

Alcoholic Drinks:
Aperol Spritz
Campari
Negroni (Campari, Vermouth and gin)
Wine
Prosecco
Spumante
Assorted cocktails (I’ve ordered cocktails that range from Cosmos to Mojitos in bars in southern Italy, so depending on where you are, you might be able to get your favorite cocktail. That being said, they usually aren’t what you’d get in a bar in the US, so feel free to experiment or stick to something the bar knows well.)

I usually order a “frutta della casa” (fruit of the house) drink that is made either with alcohol or without and find them to be the sweetest-and prettiest-drinks in the bar.

What Should you Expect When You Order an Aperitivo?

In most (not all) bars in southern Italy, the barista will deliver an assortment of finger foods, such as small sandwiches, olives, chips, pizzas, bruschetta, arancini and/or potato croquettes directly to your table. As Tina from Tina Tangos pointed out last week in the comments, this is different from bars in northern Italy, where the aperitivo food is set out on a buffet table and customers serve themselves.

If no tables are available when you arrive for your aperitivo, then prepare to stand at the bar and have your drink and food served there.

When and Where Can You Order an Aperitivo?
In southern Italy, aperitivo is typically served before lunch, starting around 11:30 or 12:00, then again in the evening around 7:00.

Most bars will have some kind of aperitvo, but all aperitivi experiences are not created equally. Some of them are down-right disappointing, with stale pretzels and peanuts while others are so fresh and filling you’ll want to skip dinner.

More on Italian Aperitivi
For more on the Italian aperitivo experience throughout Italy, check out some of these posts written by my Italophile friends in the bel paese.

At Home in Tuscany: I Love Aperitivo

Italy in SF: The Aperitivo Tradition

Ms. Adventures in Italy: Guide to Italian Aperitivo and Drinks

Why Go Italy: How to Eat for Free (Kind of)

Where to Have Aperitivo in Italy
Two of my favorite places to have aperitivo in Catanzaro are Caffè Letteraria in the historical center and Baraonda in Catanzaro Lido. But now I need your help.

Where is your favorite aperitivo spot in Italy? Please share in the comments!

Photos: schoeband and Cinzia A. Rizzo via flickr

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Comments

  1. I love reading your posts. I never knew about “aperitivo”.I’ve never heard that word. Sounds like a great tradition! I love learning about the Italian culture!

    Thank you so much! I hope you get to try a real Italian aperitivo soon.

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