Our Favorite Places for an Italian Aperitivo
In Italy, there is always a good reason to socialize. In fact, it is as common to hear them say "See you for an aperitivo?" at the end of the day as it is to be offered a cafe (espresso) in the morning.
The Italian-styled "happy hour" is known as an aperitivo and the whole concept came about in Italy, more precisely in Turin, in the late 1700s with the birth of a sweet vermouth liquor. As the name suggests, the aperitivo should be something that "opens" the stomach for the next meal, normally dinner; therefore, something tasty, yet light.
Though in the beginning of the 19th century the classic aperitif would have included a "cocktail" based on vermouth, today it will normally include a Sprizter (an orange colored drink with Aperol, bubbly wine and water), a frosty glass of beer or a glass of a local wine. The drinks are almost always accompanied by a plate of nibbles like potato chips, peanuts and olives, but in recent years the culinary accompaniment has grown in size and selection. In fact, it has almost become a light dinner, so much so that the name has changed to: aperi-"cena" (dinner).
What to expect?
So have your Italian friends have invited you to meet up for an aperitivo? Or you just want to join in on the local custom?
Let's start by saying that your appointment will most probably be between 6pm and 9pm. If it is expected to be followed by dinner, then it is likely to be over soon with a small drink and a plate of peanuts. However, if it is just a moment to meet up, it can easily turn into an apericena and go a little (or a lot) later than 9pm.
In the majority of bars, you can make a "classic" aperitif with a quality glass of wine, a sparkling wine or a cocktail, even a non-alcoholic version. Some places, however, offer something extra, like a buffet with an abundant selection of finger food, a special atmosphere/event or extra services.
If you are on your own, you can interpret this as the perfect opportunity to have a seat at one of the many bars and cafes, nurse a drink with a delicious plate of Italian finger food and watch Florence stroll by. The combination of a good glass of wine, a collection of tasty treats and Florence at sunset is the ideal way to end a great day of visiting the many museums and monuments in this incredible city.
With so many offers, we decided to put together some suggestions from the VisitFlorence team including our favorites and why. We concentrated on some places that offer cocktails with a good value for your money, and in this other article you'll find more suggestions.
Donna's Top 3 Aperitivi
Tuesday night is Jazz night! That’s one of my favorite reasons to visit L’Ortone. The second reason is that the “aperitivo” is really like an aperi-cena, with a selection of tasty and hearty dishes. The last time I was there they served up the Peposo meat stew in red wine, fried polenta, four types of pasta and a selection of quiche-like dishes. When the weather is nice, they open up the French doors on the ground floor and the music extends out into the covered outdoor area. A little above the average, the cost is 10€ for the drink and buffet, but the quality of the food make it well worth the extra Euro.
They have an extensive wine list for those who have a discerning palate and for those who want good music and good food, their daily menu ranges from classic dishes (Coccoli with Prosciutto & Stracchino cheese) to the more exotic like Salted Cod Fish with confit and a fresh salad with fennel, oranges and olives. Extra plus...they have a kids menu! It includes dishes like pasta with tomato sauce - plain and simple.
This area is on the very edge of “touristy” and attracts a very mixed crowd ranging from students (the Florence University Architecture department is right next door), locals and a few passing tourists. You can use the C1 bus to drop you off in Piazza Beccaria, and it is less than a 5 minute walk. Or you can stroll down the main streets towards Sant’Ambrogio (where the locals go for the farmer’s market in the morning Mon - Sat).
Location:Piazza Ghiberti, 87r.
2. IL RIFRULLO
I have been going to this cafe since I started living in Florence - as you sit and watch the number of people stop and go, you might just begin to wonder “who hasn’t?”? It is a classic since 1981 and has captured the heart of the foreign and local public. The atmosphere has changed over the years, once considered on the margins of the city, it is now in the middle of the “via vai” to enjoy the fantastic view from Piazzale Michelangelo above. It has outside seating and a cosy indoor area - so winter, spring, summer or fall, it's all good. The happy hour starts around 7pm and goes until 10 pm.
The menu is a mix of Italian classics and international fare, but in a certain sense you come here more to enjoy the atmosphere. Once a favorite hang out for Clet, the local (and famous) street artist, the area where il Rifrullo sits is home to several art galleries.
They have embraced their international clientele and offer a real authentic brunch on Sundays from noon to 3 pm, and reservations are suggested. The buffet is a mix of Italian and not so Italian: maple syrup Pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, homemade sweets such as Tiramisu and grandma fruit pies.
Location:Via San Niccolò, 55 r.
3. CAFFE' LETTERARIO LE MURATE
This place has one of those Bohemian atmospheres with a large courtyard set up in what was once the city prison. It was completely restored but they have maintained many of the architectural peculiarities that distinguish it from other historic buildings in the area... namely the prison doors. It now serves as a meeting place for book clubs and presentations, meet the author events, films and live music.
Located next door to the University of Florence, the bar is open from 8 am till one in the morning every day of the week. They have a light menu and are especially conscious of the student budget, so you will find several low cost alternatives. The buffet is a bit standard fare - but the atmosphere, the music and the energy make it a fun place to add to your evening out.
This is yet another place right on the edge of the historic city center of Florence, you can take bus 13, 31 and 32 which will leave you right in front of the road next to the Le Murate (they stop right after Piazza Beccaria) or you can catch C1 from the center and go to Piazza Beccaria and walk the extra 5 minutes.
Location: Piazza delle Murate (zona mercato di Sant'Ambrogio)
Cristina's 3 Favorite
It is in the historic center of Florence, just steps from the luxurious Via de'Tornabuoni.
The environment is modern and quite stylish, suitable for an aperitif with friends. The buffet is rich and you could call it more quietly apericena than a simple aperitif. You'll find a selection of finger-foods, sandwiches, cheese, salami and delicious fried items.
If you have the opportunity, do not miss the delicious fried sage!.
Location: via Porta Rossa 63R.
2. CAFFE' PASTICCERIA SERAFINI
This Cafè is just outside the circle of boulevards that enclose the old city, a few meters from Piazza Beccaria.
Here you will find few tourists and many Florentines, who leave the office or are just waiting to spend the night out, so they stop for a tasty appetizer (again, given the abundance of food, it is more of an apericena).
At a cost of 8 Euros (if you take a soft drink, a euro less) you can delight your taste buds with the cold cuts, small sandwiches, fresh cut cheeses and even vegetable dishes, which change from time to time.
The seating is limited inside, but there is also a comfortable outdoor gazebo.
Location: via Gioberti 168R.
3. ANDERSEN CAFE'
Enjoying a drink if you have kids along is not always simple, but at the Andersen Cafè you can do it in true comfort. It is one of the few places in Florence in fact that cater to familied, dedicating an entire small side room as a kids play area where your children can play while the adults enjoy something tasty and a moment of peace.
Apart from arriving and finding a special happy hour evening, you can create your own by combining the range of cocktails on offer with the proposals on the menu as well as the day's specials, which are inspired by Swedish flavors.
Location:via Borgo Santa Croce 21R.
Now the word passes on to you: share your favorite places for an aperitivo in Florence leaving a comment below.