Have your next cocktail hour with an Italian flair.
Like so many things in Rome, happy hour is a bit slower (and a touch more stylish) than what you might expect in other countries. Another important distinction is it’s all about the food—but not in the way you might think! The word aperitivo itself comes from the Latin verb aperire, which means to open your appetite. While there are snacks to enjoy, the aperitivo is not meant to replace your dinner, but instead, to enhance it.
Insider’s Tip: If you’re looking for a light dinner on the early side, look for the word apericena, which is a modern hybrid that offers drinks and a hearty buffet.
The usual hours to enjoy an aperitivo are 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, and while you can order anything you like, you’re likely to see Italians drinking sunset-hued Aperol or Campari spritzes. Both of these drinks are a refreshing mix of bitter liqueur, prosecco and sparkling water. Another popular choice is a negroni, a drink that packs a real punch with equal parts Campari, gin and vermouth. For a non-alcoholic choice with a similar bitter taste (and appetite-inducing quality!) order a Crodino.
The aperitivo tradition began in Milan and has worked its way south to Rome where it has been heartily adopted. Your drinks will always come with some kind of salty snack. This could be as simple as a few olives and a bowl or peanuts, a plate of pizza bianca, or even a buffet of more substantial offerings like rice and pasta salads.
1. La Bottega del Caffè
The Piazza Madonna dei Monti is the heart of the Monti neighborhood, and the La Bottega del Caffè is at its center. With beer on tap, a range of wines and prosecco by the glass, as well as spritzes on the menu, there’s plenty to choose from. A trio of peanuts, olives and potato chips, as well as a small plate of sandwiches and mini pizzas accompany your drink. You can also upgrade and add a pinzimonio, a plate of fresh crunchy vegetables to dip in olive oil.
Address: Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, 5
Il Sorpasso is the perfect spot for a drink after an afternoon at the Vatican museums. The wine list is extensive, and they have a limited cocktail menu. The cheese and cured meat plates are exceptional. They serve cheeses from every Italian region—expect fresh buffalo mozzarella delivered daily from Campania to creamy aged blue cheese from Piemonte.
3. Da Canova Piazza del Popolo
Have your Fellini moment at the Bar Canova in the grand Piazza del Popolo. The legendary filmmaker was a regular here, and you can visit a dedicated gallery of photographs and his drawings at the back of the cafe. Sit at one of the covered outdoor tables, and have a front-row view of Roman piazza life while sipping your spritz.
Santo is a modern bistro and bar tucked away on a quiet street on the piazza San Cosimato side of Trastevere. The cocktail list here is creative, and there are often guest bartenders visiting from other top bars in Italy. Santo specializes in inventive bites with fine-dining flair, such as their ginger, anchovy, butter and lemon zest crumble. A menu with a limited selection of seafood crudo is also available.
5. Barnum Cafe
Comfy couches and eclectic art add to the cozy vibe at this friendly spot near Campo di Fiori. Barnum Cafe serves both classic and modern cocktails, and you can add on a delicious plate of prosciutto, salami and cheese if you are feeling peckish before dinner.
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