It’s still a few hours from dinner, but the restaurants and bars on the sidewalks of Milan, are starting to fill up with all kinds of people. It’s time for aperitivo. This is not just for tourists. Local families, the cool set, business colleagues and couples; gather for a sundowner and a snack. But to say that aperitivo is a sundowner and a snack would be very misleading.
Aperitivo is a lifestyle.
It helps to understand that Aperto means ‘open’ in Italian. Sitting down for a cocktail between the hours of roughly 6-8pm, is all about whetting or preparing (opening?) your appetite ahead of dinner.
I’ve heard that aperitivo originated in northern Italy by the inventor of the Campari drink. Apparently a slightly bitter drink is ideal for stimulating the appetite, which is why Aperol Spritzer is one of the most popular drinks for aperitivo. Dry prosecco is also a popular choice.
But aperitivo is also all about the food! If you have a small appetite, what is often served can be enough for a meal, or in my case, it can easily ruin your appetite for dinner, because I struggle to hold back in the face of so much deliciousness!
On that note it’s worth mentioning that it’s considered really bad manners to order your Aperitivo (usually around €8-12) and to dive into several helpings of the fare. This is not an all you can eat buffet. Good form suggests one small plate per drink ordered. Watch how the locals do it, not the backpackers!
In the very touristy neighborhoods like Brera in Milan, the waiters encourage you into their establishments with lavish displays advertising their offerings.
Not for us. We preferred the ones where the locals bring their dogs