Aperitivo might be the culinary ritual that cemented my love for living in Italy. When I first moved to Florence in 2012 to pursue my dream to live in Italy, I came on my own without help from anyone. So let’s just say I had a student budget and lived in a shoebox of a room in a shared house for the first 2 years.
To stay within my means, I did a LOT of aperitivo nights. That’s what I was able to afford if I wanted to socialize over food and drink, which is one of the most admirable aspects of Italian culture. I can’t think of how else I could have networked and made friends as a newbie.
Drinking well with a pre-dinner snack (the basis of an Italian aperitivo) shouldn’t have to break the bank. And thankfully for me, it didn’t. This post will give you some tips on where to aperitivo on a budget while not having to sacrifice quaffable hooch or tasty snacks to match.
In my first years in Florence as a 20 something, Aperitivo was a way for me to still go out, drink socially and enjoy the convenience of not having to cook for myself. Dinner outings were rare (aside from a pizza once in a while) and it took me 8 months of inconsistent/underpaid gigs to find stability.
Even by that time, I still had to juggle English lessons with 2 part-time jobs in food tourism, as they were a huge paycut to what I was accustomed to in the states. Even though I was pinching myself to be working in the exact fields I wanted to be in and was paying the bills.
I was incredibly tenacious to pursue my dream to live in Italy despite having certain odds stacked against me (no family help, for example). I wouldn’t let much get in the way, even coming with no job or safety net lined up. So much so that I was willing to take enormous risks and make my humble saving nest egg stretch as much as I could.
Aperitivo and the Sant’Ambrogio market were my saving graces to afford myself quality food, drink and partake in local culture. Aperitivo was how I could still socialize even if I couldn’t afford many dinner outings.
And this is what I love about Italian food culture. Everyone can afford the simple things like an aperitivo, espresso, well-made pastries, pizza, gelato and so on.
Of course there are many challenges to living in Italy as there is with any place. But the challenging access to simple things like affordable produce is something that upsets me about life in the US, especially in cities like San Francisco who claim to be so “community-oriented.” Pu-lease.
With that all said, time to move on to the topic I promised in the title: Where to aperitivo in Florence (affordably).
Moving on to the point….
Warning: I rarely recommend aperitivo buffets. Even as a broke newcomer, I had standards and I despised places like Kitsch. I’d rather recommend quality spots with affordable wine or cocktail offerings and freshly prepared small plates and/or small bites that are satiating.
If you choose correctly, you’d be out 15eu or less, which is what an apericena (a concept of dinner “cena” in the aperitivo format) buffet usually costs.
Where to Aperitivo in Florence on a Budget
Here are a handful of spots for casual, affordable aperitivo in Florence I enjoy that I hope you will too. Some apericena/aperitivo buffet recs included too;)
Fiascheteria Osteria Nuvoli just a stone’s throw from the Duomo is one of my go-to recs for budget eateries but its also a charming old-school osteria for a small glass of wine, a couple crostini and charcuterie. They have some greasy spoon Tuscan soups and pastas should you want to stay for an easy meal in their underground cellar.
La Sosta dei Papi is a popular spot for the young peoples (what I’d give for a time machine!), by day it’s a wine shop/vino sfuso enoteca (bulk wine, bring your bottle to refill) and in the evening they serve up aperitivo plates of coccoli (pizza dough spheres) with fresh cheese stracchino and prosciutto, and other nibbles to go along with either glasses from their sfuso tap or from a more curated bottle. They offer the best of both worlds (budget-friendly wine but also quaffable glasses from boutique producers for those who can splurge a little)
Unique Aperitivo Ideas (Venetian-style, dive bars, natural wine, Spanish tapas, etc)
For Spritz cocktails that aren’t only made from Aperol but include bitters like Select and Cynar with cicchetti small bite snacks, head to Bulli e Balene in Piazza della Passera. They have an approach to aperitivo as the Venetians do (i.e. cicheti), but put their own Tuscan spin on things like using local finocchiona fennel salami and cavolo nero for their bite toppings.
Speaking of Venice-style aperitivo, Dorsoduro 3821 near San Lorenzo is worthwhile. An expat group I’m apart of Fiori d’Italia recently had one of their community gatherings here (go follow/join I Fiori and Sam of Aperilife who is the group’s glue)
Perch yourself outside to catch a view of Santa Croce’s basilica for this hidden gem. Fermino Firenze is the stop for unforgettable pizzette and other crostini bar bites with natural wines and decent (strong) Negronis. They also have a small kitchen menu for small plates should you want to stay for a low key dinner.
La Cova is a Spanish-style tapas bar in the Oltrarno with generously sized bites and quaffable drinks, vermouths and wine that could pass as a fun Aperitivo if you order wisely.
For humor, dive vibes but well-made drinks zero f***s, Nutella jar glassware and no spritz allowed, drink at Mad Souls & Spirits. They don’t have snacks (maybe some crackers) but I love them.
For affordable glasses of champagne, strong Negronis and no-fuss martinis you crave with chips and nuts, and a local atmosphere/no frills- head to Enoteca Caffè di Sant’Ambrogio
Apericena = Aperitivo for dinner, usually buffet style
The only buffet Aperitivo or apericena I’d ever suggest is Pasticceria Serafini on Via Gioberti. They bake and prepare everything on-site, and do occasional themed aperitivi, like the other night I went for an Indian food apericena. Wine choices and spritz do the trick, nothing to write home about just a really reliable local spot for casual outings, especially during the week.
Other buffet aperitivi/apericene I wouldn’t throw out of bed would be T’Amero in Santo Spirito who makes all their pasta in-house, Chiaroscuro near Piazza della Repubblica (they pull great specialty espresso as well), Volume also in Santo Spirito (purely for atmosphere, but I haven’t been in ages), Quelo in Santa Croce (they have a vegetarian edge) and Biblioteca delle Oblate (for the view!!!), Cafe degli Artigiani for the vibe in Piazza della Passera.
For more Aperitivo in Florence resources, be sure to save these guides:
A Neighborhood Guide to Aperitivo in Florence
Aperitivo in Florence – a round up
Budget dining in Florence (I know not Aperitivo, but still budget-minded)
And bookmark Curious Appetite’s Aperitivo tour in case you want to splurge on a guided experience.
Have any budget-friendly aperitivo finds you’d add? I’d be happy to grow this list. This post originated from my Instagram grid. Make sure you follow for for frequent updates and Florence food tips as I’m more active there, nuggets especially in stories!
In your aperitivo trust,