Florence, Italy: Aperitivo Italian Style
Negroni- The Classic Florentine Cocktail
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The Story Behind this Popular Trend
The word “aperitivo” is defined as: an alcoholic beverage consumed prior to a meal to stimulate the appetite. The term originates from the Latin verb “to open” (as in opening the stomach). In France, it is pronounced aperitif (a-pear-i-teef), and in Italy, aperitivo (a-pear-ee-teevo). Here in Florence, the Aperitivo is how many of us stay socially connected.
When and where did the Italian aperitivo originate? More than likely it originated in Torino in the 1780’s with the creator of vermouth liquor, Antonio Benedetto Carpano. It became an official “trend” decades later, in the 1860’s, when Gaspare Campari began serving his homemade concoction- Campari liquor- at his Milanese cafè.
What cocktail should you order? In the north of Italy, the most popular drink is the Spritz (Aperol, prosecco, splash of soda, served on the rocks). Prosecco is also an excellent choice because the acidity gets the gastric juices in your stomach flowing, thus inducing hunger. In Florence, you should opt for a Negroni since it was invented here at Caffè Giacosa by Count Camillo Negroni when he asked the bartender to spike his Americano cocktail with gin (Campari, sweet red vermouth, gin, served on the rocks). If you find none of these appealing, then ask the bartender if the bar offers a special “in-house” cocktail. A bar that I frequent (Bar Migliorini) created the Mediterraneo (crushed basil leaves, simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin, served on the rocks)- so refreshing!
Traditionally, the aperitivo cocktail is served with meaty olives, nuts, and/or potato chips. Oh, how times have changed. Several years ago, bars in the north of Italy began serving heartier snacks like schiacciata, cheese, sausage, proscuitto, etc., and people opted to enjoy their cocktails at establishments that provided these free nibbles. Not surprisingly, other bars quickly followed suit. In recent years, stakes were raised when substantial fare like pasta was offered with cocktails, thus giving people the opportunity to enjoy a primo before going out to dinner.
As food varieties and quantities grew, so did the expansion of this concept- to the point that many places today offer an apericena, which is an aperitivo buffet so bountiful that one could simply skip dinner altogether. I recommend this option for those who eat a big lunch and want a light meal in the evening, or for travelers/students on strict budgets.
Aperitivo (or Apericena) time is approximately between 7pm and 10pm, and cocktail prices usually range from 8-10 euros here in Florence.
Where to go? There are plenty of fabulous places in the city. For example, I recently enjoyed a night out with friends at Caffè Sant’Ambrogio, which offers a good selection of wines and freshly made pasta with their aperitivo. Located in the lively Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, this bar attracts many local Florentines.
Another favorite is Volume (located in Piazza Santo Spirito). This bar doesn’t offer an apericena, but there are plenty of nibbles and the cocktails are great. They have live music performances in the evenings and the venue itself (a former woodwork shop) is really cool. Vintage tools and amazing wood sculptures adorn the interior.
Here are some more suggestions for an enjoyable aperitivo in Florence:
Negroni Bar (located near Piazza Demidoff) offers delicious food, good music, and a mixed crowd. www.negronibar.com
Kitsch (there are two locations: Via San Gallo and Piazza Beccaria) boasts the most bountiful apericena in the city with a wide variety of foods to choose from. The music is always good which makes this a hot spot. Large groups should make a reservation. www.kitschfirenze.com
Gallery Art Bar (located on Via dei Benci) features artwork by local artists on the walls, along with good cocktails and a wide selection of tasty dishes.
Quelo Bar (located on Borgo S. Croce) is charming and family-friendly. It caters to vegetarians and vegans- and the food is quite flavorful. quelobar.blogspot.it
There are several other wonderful places in the city but there’s not enough room to mention all of them. If you happen to be walking past a bar in the evening and it’s packed with people, chances are there is an aperitivo going on that is worth checking out. Thank you for reading!
C. De Melo
Author & Artist