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 Spritzer (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
When I am not scoping out the local beer production, my friends can easily convince me to check out some new happy hour. Who doesn't like finger food and Tuscany wine, right?
1. CAFFE' SANT'AMBROGIO
This place is always buzzing. In the winter, you can barely find standing room if you don't get there early enough and in the summer they have opened an outdoor terrace that sits in front of the Sant'Ambrogio Church. This area is frequented by a fantastic mix of Florentine professionals, up and coming college students and the occasional tourists who happen to find the courage to enter an area that looks very much “Italians only”. I have been walking in front of it for 10 years - and it wasn't until my very boisterous friend dragged me into me the crowd that I had my very first taste of this fun and lively environment.
They boast a yummy wine list, and as my girlfriend told me - it is hard to go wrong with whatever you are drinking. The prices range from 4 Euro (Lemon Soda) to 6 or 8 Euro for a glass of wine. The buffet which is served up from 6 - 8 is a mix of hot and cold dishes, including several vegetarian possibilities.
Open from 10am to 3pm, you are sure to find a good reason to visit this place, if not for an aperitivo then some people watching - Florentine style...obviously.
Location: Piazza Sant'Ambrogio 7
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 been to Rifrullo?" It has been 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.
2. 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. SOUL KITCHEN
It’s like they say, this place has a different soul for the different moments of the day (or night). My favorite is when they pull out the buffet, buff up their cocktail glasses and add music & mingling on the menu. They like to create themed nights and will serve up a delicious combination of traditional Tuscan dishes alongside a few distinctly “not-so-Italian” recipes, like their stuffed potato skins or Greek moussaka.
Located practically next door to Piazza Santa Croce, you can actually top in here at all times of the day for something to eat and drink. We suggest you even think about hanging around for the DJ sets and events start to light up the night.
Location: Via de' Benci, 34R
Now the word passes on to you: share your favorite places for an aperitivo in Florence leaving a comment below.