Iconic small aperitivo bar in a small coastal town in Amalfi Italy

Savoring the Sweet Life: A Journey Through Italy's Beloved Aperitivo Culture

8 min read

Discover the art of aperitivo with our essential guide – perfect for enjoying Italy's culture or hosting your own impeccable aperitivo gatherings.

8 min read

The Italian aperitivo is a cherished tradition that embodies the essence of La Dolce Vita – the good life. More than just a happy hour, it's a time for socializing, relaxation, and indulging in delicious food and drinks. Here's the essential guide to immersing yourself in the aperitivo culture, whether you're exploring Italy or hosting an impeccable aperitivo gathering for friends and family in the comfort of your own home.

Red cocktails and olives on a plate during sunset

Origins of Aperitivo

The aperitivo tradition dates back to the 18th century when Antonio Benedetto Carpano introduced vermouth, a fortified wine infused with herbs and spices. Initially conceived as a medicinal tonic, vermouth soon became a popular pre-dinner drink, believed to stimulate the appetite and prepare the palate for the meal ahead.

The aperitivo tradition has its roots in 18th-century Italy, when the innovative Antonio Benedetto Carpano first introduced the world to vermouth—a fortified wine thoughtfully infused with a medley of herbs and spices. Born in Turin, Italy, Carpano's creation quickly garnered attention, captivating the taste buds of the Italian aristocracy and transforming the way they approached pre-dinner drinks.

Initially, vermouth was conceived as a medicinal tonic, designed to deliver a potent blend of botanicals with potential health benefits. As its popularity grew, however, people began to recognize its value as an appetite stimulant, perfect for whetting the appetite and preparing the palate for the flavorsome meal to come. This marked the birth of the aperitivo tradition, an Italian ritual that has since become synonymous with sophistication, relaxation, and the art of conversation.

The word "aperitivo" itself is derived from the Latin verb "aperire," meaning "to open." This beautifully encapsulates the essence of the tradition, as it opens up not only the appetite but also the evening's social interactions.

Italian aperitivo with olives and cocktails on a wooden table

What to Expect from Aperitivo?

Aperitivo typically takes place between 6 pm and 9 pm, bridging the gap between the end of the workday and Italy's traditionally late dinner hour. The core of the experience is the combination of drinks and small bites, often served buffet-style or as a platter brought to your table. The atmosphere is relaxed, with friends and colleagues gathering to unwind, chat, and enjoy each other's company.

Aperitivo drinks are usually light and refreshing, designed to whet your appetite without overwhelming your taste buds. Classic options include the Aperol Spritz, Negroni, and Campari-based cocktails. For a non-alcoholic alternative, consider a Sanbittèr or Crodino.

The food offerings vary by region but typically include a variety of savory bites like olives, cheese, cured meats, bruschetta, and small sandwiches called tramezzini. In some venues, the spread may be more elaborate, featuring pasta, risotto, or even pizza.

To ensure you fully immerse yourself in the authentic aperitivo experience, we've compiled a selection of insider tips that will help you savor this delightful tradition just like a local:

  • Choose the right spot: Seek out local favorites, such as cozy wine bars or bustling piazzas, where you can enjoy an authentic atmosphere and watch the world go by.
  • Savor the moment: aperitivo is meant to be a leisurely experience. Linger over your drinks, nibble on the delicious bites, and engage in conversation with friends or fellow travelers.
  • Embrace moderation: It's easy to get carried away with the tempting array of food and drinks, but remember that aperitivo is intended as a prelude to dinner, not a meal in itself.
  • Explore regional variations: Italy's diverse regions each have their unique aperitivo offerings. In Milan, you might encounter a lavish buffet, while in Venice, you can sample traditional cicchetti (Venetian tapas).

By embracing the aperitivo tradition and taking the time to savor Italy's culinary and social delights, you'll be experiencing the essence of la dolce vita.

Recipes to try at home

Here are the recipes and steps to make the classic Aperol Spritz, Negroni, and Campari-based Americano cocktails.

Aperol Spritz


  • 90 ml (3 oz) Prosecco
  • 60 ml (2 oz) Aperol
  • 30 ml (1 oz) club soda
  • Orange slice, for garnish


  • Fill a wine glass with ice.
  • Pour Prosecco, Aperol, and club soda into the glass.
  • Stir gently to combine.
  • Garnish with an orange slice and serve immediately.



  • 30 ml (1 oz) gin
  • 30 ml (1 oz) Campari
  • 30 ml (1 oz) sweet vermouth (such as Carpano Antica Formula or Martini Rosso)
  • Orange peel, for garnish


  • Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  • Add gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth to the mixing glass.
  • Stir for about 30 seconds, until well chilled.
  • Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice.
  • Express the orange peel over the glass by giving it a good twist to release its oils, then drop it into the cocktail as a garnish.

Tip: For those of you who enjoy lighter and bubblier cocktails, the Negroni Sbagliato is a refreshing alternative to the classic Negroni. Just replace gin with prosecco or any other dry sparkling wine. "Sbagliato" translates to "mistaken" or "wrong" in Italian, as the cocktail was reportedly created by accident when a bartender inadvertently used sparkling wine instead of gin.



  • 30 ml (1 oz) Campari
  • 30 ml (1 oz) sweet vermouth (such as Carpano Antica Formula or Martini Rosso)
  • 30 ml (1 oz) Club soda, to top
  • Orange or lemon peel, for garnish


  • Fill a rocks glass with ice.
  • Pour Campari and sweet vermouth into the glass.
  • Stir gently to combine.
  • Top with a splash of club soda.
  • Garnish with an orange or lemon peel and serve immediately.

The aperitivo tradition is a timeless expression of Italian culture and hospitality. As you explore the alluring flavors of Italy's cocktails and embrace this cherished ritual, you'll find yourself immersed in an unforgettable experience. Whether you're sipping on a perfectly crafted Negroni in a bustling Amalfi Coast piazza or mixing an Aperol Spritz in the comfort of your own home, the spirit of aperitivo will transport you to the heart of Italy's rich culinary landscape. So, raise a glass, indulge in the art of aperitivo, and let this enchanting tradition create memories that will linger long after the last sip. Salute!

Curate Your Home Bar for the Ultimate Aperitivo Experience with:

Vintage Martini tile coasters

Ceramic tile coasters

Full cocktail making kit by Kitessensu

Cocktail making kit

Cocktail glasses by Opayly

Modern cocktail glasses, set of 4

Cocktail glasses by Aoeoe

Classic cocktail glasses, set of 4

Matt Hranek book about Negroni cocktail

The Negroni: A Love Affair with a Classic Cocktail

Matt Hranek
Matt Hranek book about Martini cocktail

The Martini: Perfection in a Glass

Matt Hranek
Vacuum insulated cocktail shaker by Lexenic

Vacuum insulated cocktail shaker

Modern mirrored serving tray by Kate and Laurel

Gohana modern mirrored serving tray

Kate and Laurel
Contemporary round metal serving tray by Rivet

Contemporary decorative round metal serving tray



Lizzie Z.

As a top level corporate executive, Lizzie embarked on a soul-searching journey of adventure and slow living, passionately sharing her insights as the founder of RLM.



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