Two friends of mine have been touring Italy this summer, while discovering the famous “dolce vita”. Some of their stops have been Bologna, Venice, Verona, Florence and Milan. Although I have always loved Italy and the Italian way of life I must confess I have never visited the country. I have always thought about it but I have never really made it there. When I think about it I dream about all the places I will visit and I must admit that Milan wasn’t really on my top destinations. ‘Til now.
Milan is an important business centre, also famous for being one of the world’s most important fashion capitals, along with Paris, New York City, London and Tokyo. But this didn’t impress me much as I thought it to be a grey place, which didn’t contain the “real” Italian way of life you could find in other cities. I know, I totally prejudged it. So I was really surprised when my friends told me that in fact they really loved the city and, amongst all, they really enjoyed one of Milan’s most famous traditions: the “aperitivo”.
Traditionally, an aperitivo was a pre-meal drink, commonly Campari and orange juice or Cinzano on ice, served to whet the appetite. But in recent years the aperitivo has been elevated to a totally new level in Milan, creating a free open buffet included in the price of your drink. These buffets, which started with just some snacks, have evolved including now a wide variety of foods, such as pasta, risotto, meats or cheeses.
Italians usually have dinner at about 9pm, so between 6pm and 9pm many bars in Milan open their doors to offer their famous “aperitivo italiano” to a crowd of costumers. Each bar has its own menu and specialties, which get more competitive every day. The prices for the drinks during the aperitivo have a supplement, added to compensate for the refreshments offered, and usually go for 6 to 10€, depending on the bar, its location, or the buffet offered. The prices are usually the same for all the drinks; it doesn’t matter if it’s a bottle of water or a glass of wine.
The aperitivo is a great tradition for Milanese people, especially as an after-work event, because it gives them the chance to socialize, relax and nibble as dinner approaches. But the aperitivo is also a budget option when travelling to Milan, as some buffets can really be a good meal replacement. And this is a great deal, especially when talking about expensive cities as Milan, where an average dinner can cost you about 25€.
Many places offering the “aperitivo italiano” in Milan are located near Navigli, Porta Ticinese and Porta Romana, and my friends shared some of their favourites with me, so in case you are planning to visit Milan during the next months, don’t miss these ones: Ciu’s (Via Spontini, 6), Fioraio Bianchi (Via Montebello) and Slice Cafe (via Ascanio Sforza 9).
But the aperitivo italiano has become so popular that now you can find it, not only in Milan or all over Italy, but also all over the world. In fact, I’ve seen many Italian bars in Barcelona offering the aperitivo italiano, so I’ll probably give them a try soon. Although there’s no doubt it’s always better to find cheap apartments in Milan and try the real thing. I hope I’ll be doing this very soon too, especially now that I’ve discovered this delicious tradition!
About the author
Marta Mir has a degree in Journalism. But tired of listening to the stories of politicians in power she decided to flee to distant lands to, like the ancient troubadours, come back and tell her own stories. Now she has less money but is much happier.
How about you? Have you ever had an apetivo? I have had apéro in Switzerland and France, but never Italy, I am looking forward to checking that out this autumn!