A Beginner’s Guide to Aperitivo

Bubbly, buzzing, beautiful moments happen every day at a certain time all around Italy. A social gathering we would call “Happy Hour” in the U.S. is deemed Aperitivo in Italy. Aperitivo literally means “Appetizer” when translated. Typically, you go to a restaurant buy a drink indulge in some appetizers and then leave. Sounds simple right? NOPE. Aperitivo can be tricky if you don’t do it the right way, we want to make sure you are properly prepared to Aperitivo your way through the semester and knowing how to navigate this custom is an important part of living in Italy.

Here are some of our beginner tips to navigating the Italian Aperitivo: 


Aperitivo hours usually stretch from 7 p.m to about 9 p.m.  Keep in mind, Italians eat dinner late.

The Drink

Photo Source: ioviaggio.it

 The Aperol Spritz is the main drink of choice when it comes to Italian Aperitivo. Get used to seeing this elegant little refresher everywhere you go. Initially, it may have a bitter taste but give it time, it gets better as you drink it. This drink will become a key part of your Italian Aperitivo. Side Note: Italians do not drink spritz’s at dinner, the Aperol Spritz is only used for Aperitivo so if you do order it at dinner get ready for some strange looks. 

The Food

Photo Source: dietistaroma.com

 Many bars, cafes, and restaurants will include a free small snack buffet to go along with your drink. Simpler options include olives, nuts, or chips. Bigger Aperitivo buffets can include salad, cured meats, cheeses, bread, soup, and of course pasta. You can usually glance a preview of what your options will be, as most restaurants have the food set-up as a buffet on display. Usually, if the restaurant does not have the food on display they probably have a very small food selection ie. Nuts, olives, chips. It’s always good to check the menu first to see what you are going to get for the Aperitivo price. There is a term called “apericena” in Italian, roughly translated means “enough food at Aperitivo for dinner.” If you want to use Aperitivo for dinner you, of course, can! Just make sure to see if the food choices are worthy of your apericena.

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Photo Source: divertirsicongusto.it

It is not very hard to find Aperitivo in Italy. Just walk the streets and you will see many bars and cafes preparing for the daily social gathering. Look out for small looking buffets and always keep your eye out for an Aperol Spritz. That is a clear sign of Aperitivo.  Like mentioned before, what you see is what you get and what you don’t see is probably not a lot. 


Aperitivo can be enjoyed with friends, family, or even complete strangers, it’s a time to catch up and unwind.  Aperitivo is also a great opportunity to make new friends and get to know the locals. Use Aperitivo for happy hour with your friends or to have a nice meal before heading out to the bars.