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The Art of the Aperitivo

In America, we have happy hour. In Italy? It's l'aperitivo, and if you ask me, it's even better in the boot!

The History of l'Aperitivo

Like anything good in Italy, l'aperitivo has deep roots. In the late 18th century, folks started imbibing before dinner to stimulate the appetite and prepare the palate for the feast to come.

While l'aperitivo has become somewhat extravagant in some places, it started as a modest drink like vermouth or bitters, accompanied by snackies like olives or nuts.

Give Italians any excuse to socialize, and they'll take it, so l'aperitivo morphed into a social event.

L'Aperitivo Today

L'aperitivo varies, depending on where in Italy you are, and what kind of bar you're in. But pretty much everywhere, you can find my favorite drink: the Aperol Spritz. Made with prosecco and a generous amount of the neon orange bitter liqueur made from herbs, you'll find some variations in Italy.

For example, in Venice, you may find the Spritz garnished with an olive! I tried it, and can't say I liked it. I much prefer the traditional orange slice garnish.

You can also find Spritz made from Campari or other liqueurs. I've tried one made with berry liqueur that was fabulous!

Onto the food. At its basic, an aperitivo comes with bowls of olives, chips, and nuts. But more and more, you'll find a more robust option that includes tiny sandwiches, mini pizzas, and calzones. In Milan (and other places), the apericena is growing in popularity. It's essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet of sub-par food. It's popular with students because the price is low and you can fill up.

In Calabria, our aperitivo is something to behold, though you have to know where to go. For example, in Fra's town of Davoli, we love going to L'Aperitivo Da Ccioma because, for €15, you get all the wine you can drink as well as meatballs, rice and potato croquettes, zeppole, peppers and potatoes, beans, veggies, cheese, cured meats, and probably other things I'm forgetting. You definitely don't need to eat after!

How Much Does an Aperitivo Cost?

Again, it depends on where you are. Fra is fond of saying you pay a lot for an aperitivo here in Soverato and don't get anything to eat. I'm not denying it, but the bars here have a bit more ambiance than the two bars in Davoli that sell Spritz for €3.50.

We were in Rome and had an aperitivo at Campo dei Fiori, a popular tourist spot. I was surprised that we only paid €7 or 9, and had lots of snacks to eat with our drinks.

The Perfect Gathering

I love meeting up with friends for un aperitivo. Not only is it a great way to unwind after a long day with a drink, but it's also an opportunity to catch up, have a few laughs, and leave with a full belly.

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