What is Aperitivo? It’s Not Always Aperol (But it could Be)

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What is aperitivo, you may ask? If you’re a fan of Italian cuisine, you may have come across this pre-dinner ritual that is a beloved tradition in Italy. Aperitivo is like happy hour on steroids!

⭐️ Plus if you’re really cute, you can pretty much get by in your 20s and 30s getting free dinner with only buying one drink in Italy.

What is Aperitivo? Dolce Vita You Don’t Want to Miss

Aperitivo is a pre-dinner ritual that involves enjoying a drink and small bites with friends or colleagues. It’s a time to unwind after work, socialize, and stimulate the appetite before dinner. However, there are different ways to enjoy this on your travels.

The Meaning of Aperitivo

As hikers, we know that “L’appetito vien mangiando,” or “Eating awakens the appetite,” is true, which is why we love the Italian tradition of aperitivo – a pre-meal drink and cultural ritual that “opens” the stomach before dining, with drinks and appetizers shared between work and dinner, accompanied by the traditional cheers of “cin cin.”

Aperitivo Hour – Otherwise Known as Spritz Time!

My friends may call it “spritz-time”, but officially aperitivo is offered at many establishments that act as bakery in the morning and aperitivo after work (usually between 5-8 pm).

An aperitivo spritz is usually a great idea before setting off on a tour.

Not just a drink – a Ritual where if you buy one drink you get basically a dinner for free!!!

As someone who loves to travel in Italy from the Dolomites in the north, to Sicily in the south, I am fascinated with the Italian tradition of aperitivo. The last time I had aperitivo I tried my first negroni sbagliato (and loved it)!

Pro-tip: If they try to charge you for food, it’s because you’re a tourist. Don’t fall for it.

I mean, free food is ALWAYS interesting, right?

Related Reading:

➡️ Is Naples Worth Visiting?
➡️ Is Bari Worth Visiting?

🍸 🍷 🍢 This is my favorite Aperitivo Cookbook in English.

It’s a time to relax and enjoy the company of others, while also indulging in delicious food and drink.

The BEST Aperitivo Drink Tutorial

You know this is the one. But only have one, they are super boozy!

What Does Aperitivo Mean?

Originating in Italy in the 18th century, aperitivo has become a popular tradition across the country and beyond. The word “aperitivo” comes from the Latin word “aperire,” which means “to open.”

The idea behind aperitivo is to “open” the palate and prepare the stomach for the meal to come.

If you find yourself in Italy, experiencing an aperitivo is a must-do activity and part of the overall “dolce vita” lifestyle. Italians don’t often drink without snacks, so you’ll find it pretty awesome that happy hour always comes with great Mediterranean food.

It’s also a great way to feed yourself on a budget! Usually there’s so much food it’s basically dinner.

Whether you’re in a bustling city like Rome or a small village in the countryside, there are plenty of bars and cafes that offer aperitivo.

It’s a great way to immerse yourself in Italian culture, meet locals, and enjoy delicious drinks and snacks.

History of Aperitivo

Aperitivo has a long history in Italy, dating back to the 18th century. It was originally a way to stimulate the appetite before dinner and was typically enjoyed in cafes or bars.

Over time, Aperitivo has become more than just a drink – it’s a cultural phenomenon that brings people together.

Traditional Aperitivo Drinks

There are many different types of drinks that are typically served during Aperitivo. Some of the most popular include:

  • Prosecco
  • Campari
  • Aperol Spritz
  • Negroni

These drinks are often served with ice and a slice of citrus fruit, such as orange or lemon.

Aperitivo Food Pairings

While drinks are a key part of Italian Aperitivo, food is also an important component. The idea is to enjoy light bites that will stimulate your appetite without filling you up too much before dinner.

Some popular Aperitivo foods include:

  • Olives
  • Cured meats
  • Cheese
  • Bruschetta
  • Grilled Vegetables

Aperitivo Culture

Aperitivo is not just about the drinks and food – it’s also about the culture. It’s a time to slow down, relax, and enjoy the company of friends and family.

In Italy, Aperitivo is often enjoyed outdoors on a terrace or in a piazza, but the establishment usually will serve bakery items in the morning.

The important thing is to take the time to savor the moment and appreciate the simple pleasures in life.

In this section, I will share my experience and provide tips on how to enjoy Aperitivo like a true Italian.

How to Enjoy Aperitivo

Choosing the Right Location

The first step to enjoying Aperitivo is to choose the right location. Italians take their Aperitivo seriously and will often go to trendy bars or outdoor cafes that offer a relaxed and cozy atmosphere.

Timing is Key

Timing is everything when it comes to Aperitivo. The best time to enjoy Aperitivo is between 6 pm and 8 pm, just before dinner. This is when most bars and cafes offer their Aperitivo menus, which typically include a variety of drinks and snacks.

Ordering Aperitivo Drinks

When it comes to ordering Aperitivo drinks, there are a few key options to choose from. The classic Aperitivo drink is the Aperol Spritz, which is made with Aperol, Prosecco, and soda water.

Other popular options include Negroni, Campari Spritz, and Bellini. If you’re not sure what to order, ask the bartender for their recommendation.

Savoring Aperitivo Food Pairings

Aperitivo is not just about the drinks, it’s also about the food pairings. Most Aperitivo menus include a variety of small bites, such as olives, cheese, cured meats, and crostini. It’s important to savor each bite and pair it with the right drink.

Aperitivo Snacks

For example, salty snacks pair well with a sweet drink like Bellini, while spicy snacks pair well with a bitter drink like Campari.

How to Make Aperitivo Drinks at Home

I’ll never argue against a glass of Italian red wine, however I’m going to focus on the oh-so-Italian cocktails for this list.

1. Negroni : Best Overall Italian Drink

The Negroni is a classic Italian cocktail that has been popular for over a century. It is a drink that is enjoyed around the world, known for its bitter yet refreshing taste.

The drink consists of three simple ingredients: gin, vermouth, and Campari, with an orange peel for garnish.

Whether enjoyed on the shores of Capomulini under Mt Etna or in a bustling city bar, the Negroni is a timeless classic that is sure to impress.

The Negroni has a complex flavor that comes from the combination of the ingredients. The gin provides a dry and herbaceous taste, the vermouth adds a slight sweetness, and the Campari gives the drink its signature bitter taste.


To make a Negroni, fill a rocks glass with ice, and add equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari. Stir the ingredients together for around 30 seconds until the drink is chilled and well mixed. Finish the drink with an orange peel twist as a garnish, and enjoy.

This classic cocktail is perfect for sipping on a warm evening, and it is easy to customize by adjusting the ratios of the ingredients to your preference.

2. Aperol Spritz : Best for Summer

The Aperol Spritz is a classic Italian cocktail that has gained immense popularity around the world in recent years.

This refreshing cocktail is made with Aperol, Prosecco, and a splash of soda water, served over ice and garnished with a slice of orange.

Its vibrant orange color and fizzy nature make it a perfect summer drink, but it can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

The Aperol Spritz is an excellent choice for those who prefer a sweeter and less potent cocktail. It has a lower alcohol content compared to other classic cocktails like the Negroni, making it perfect for sipping during happy hour or social gatherings.

Its light and refreshing taste with a hint of bitterness from the Aperol is a perfect balance for a hot summer day.

6 pm is considered the best time to enjoy an Aperol Spritz, known as “aperitivo hour” in Italy from Florence to Milano, where friends gather to enjoy drinks and light snacks before dinner.


To make an Aperol Spritz, you will need a bottle of Aperol, a bottle of Prosecco, soda water, and ice. Begin by filling a wine glass with ice, then pour in 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, and a splash of soda water.

Stir gently to mix the ingredients and garnish with a slice of orange.

The Aperol Spritz is a simple yet elegant cocktail that can transport you to the beautiful streets of Venice with just one sip.

3. Bombardino : Best for Skiing

Bombardino is a delicious Italian winter drink that is particularly popular in the Dolomites, where it is enjoyed by skiers on the Sella Ronda.

The Bombardino is said to have been created in the Italian Alps during World War II as a way for soldiers to stay warm and lift their spirits. Today, it has become a popular après-ski drink, perfect for warming up after a day on the slopes.

If you find yourself in the Dolomites during ski season, be sure to indulge in a Bombardino at one of the mountain huts.

The drink is typically enjoyed in the late afternoon, just as skiers are wrapping up their day on the slopes and settling in for some well-deserved relaxation.


This warm and comforting drink is made by combining Advocaat, brandy or rum, and hot milk, then serving it in a mug with a sprinkling of cocoa powder.

The creamy, sweet, and boozy drink is the perfect way to cap off a day of skiing and take in the stunning mountain views.

4. Bellini : Best for a Sweetooth

The Bellini is a classic Italian cocktail that is perfect for sipping during warm summer days after a hike or boat ride. This refreshing cocktail is a blend of Prosecco, a sparkling Italian wine, and fresh peach puree or peach nectar.

One of my favorite memories of enjoying a Bellini was during my trip to Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples.

After a day of hiking to the thermal caves, where we enjoyed a not-so relaxing mud bath, a cave sauna and orange-lemon granita, we sat down for dinner at a local restaurant and enjoyed the most amazing cone pizza with a bellini to refresh after a day in the sun.


To make a Bellini, start by pureeing fresh peaches or using peach juice. Fill a champagne flute with the peach puree or juice, and top it off with chilled Prosecco. Gently stir the ingredients together, and garnish with a slice of fresh peach or a raspberry.

🍸 🍷 🍢 This is my favorite Aperitivo Cookbook in English.

FAQ What is Aperitivo:

Is there alcohol in aperitivo?

Aperitivo means “to open” and is used to stimulate the apetite for dinner and be a social hour. So yes, there is alcohol in aperitivo as it’s a widely known stimulant for apetite. However, in recent years there has been a growing demand for non-alchoholic drinks (even in Italy).

What does aperitivo taste like?

Aperitivo is not just about the taste, it’s an event, like happy hour. It’s a pre-dinner ritual that involves enjoying a range of light and refreshing drinks, such as spritz, negroni, or prosecco, and small bites, such as olives, cheese, and crostini. The combination of flavors is meant to stimulate the appetite and “open” the palate before a meal.

Is aperitivo the same as Aperol? Aperitivo vs Aperol.

No, aperitivo is not the same as Aperol. Aperitivo is a pre-dinner ritual that involves enjoying a range of light and refreshing drinks and small bites, while Aperol is a specific brand of bitter orange liqueur that is often used in aperitivo drinks, such as the popular Aperol Spritz.

Do Italians have aperitivo every day?

While aperitivo is a beloved tradition in Italy, not all Italians have it every day. Aperitivo is typically enjoyed in the early evening as a way to unwind after work and socialize with friends or colleagues. Some Italians may have aperitivo once or twice a week, while others may have it more frequently.

Wrap Up: aperitivo meaning = Happy Hour in Italy

In summary, aperitivo is like the pre-game to a delicious Italian meal. It’s a chance to let loose, indulge in some tasty drinks and bites, and get your appetite revved up for the main event.

Trust me, once you experience the joys of aperitivo, you’ll be hooked and wondering why you didn’t discover it sooner. So go ahead, give it a try and raise a glass to the Italian tradition of aperitivo!

Thanks for reading my travel guide on answering the question: what is aperitivo? Taking an aperitivo moment in the afternoon is dolce vita you don’t want to miss.

Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.