my photo. my aperitivo americano.
my photo. un’americano for an americana

As a lover of Italian food culture and ritual, the Italian happy hour aperitivo is quite possibly my favorite past-time in Italy. I even lead a food tour in Florence just for Aperitivo. This is a handy guide to my on-going recommendations for where to get Aperitivo in Florence as well as articles I’ve written related to aperitivo and cocktails in Florence. (Check back often- this list is a constant work in progress!)

What is Italian aperitivo? Aperitivo is simple and uncomplicated yet so social. Some compare Aperitivo to happy hour- it is not just one hour and there are not discounted drinks and food. In sum, its the ritual of having a snack and an appetite stimulating drink before the events of a meal are about to ensue. Traditionally an aperitivo drink is a bitter-based cocktail like a prosecco spritz made with campari or aperol, negroni and other vermouth/bitter liqueur based spirits. This ritual seems like a kick-off the hours you spent breaking from eating and to celebrate dining. Usually, small snacks like olives, potato chips, finger sandwiches (like tramezzini) cicheti in Venice, finger foods, fried bites and other salty savory foods are SNACKED on with an appetite-stimulating cocktail, glass of prosecco, wine and/or beer. Over time, this food & drink ritual has evolved to be “aperi-cena”, big buffets of food with poorly crafted mixed drinks that sweetly stun appetite rather than stimulate or serving haphazardly selected wines. One of my goals as a food blogger is to suggest we make better food decisions and to promote genuine Italian food culture. In some ways, aperitivo is loosing the essence of what this ritual was intended to be with the crap aperitivo bars with cafeteria-like mounds of leftovers and stale food that belongs in a science project.

lardo crostini sipped with spumante franciacorta and truffle panini at Le Volpi e L'Uva
lardo crostini sipped with spumante franciacorta and truffle panini at Le Volpi e L’Uva

Why is Aperitivo so important to me? Aperitivo is also a fab social activity. There is something electric about the social energy you find in bars and piazzas around Italy at aperitivo time. I think its important that we spend time with each other and form strong bonds. I feel that food is one of these social glues that keeps us at the core of the human experience. I could go on and on about how beautiful food and cuisine are! But what makes aperitivo special is that it is a casual social medium that is less intimate than dinner but still a great way to socialize. With the more we isolate ourselves with technologies and vanity projects, aperitivo is one of those few acts left that retain our social humanity. Perhaps I am being dramatic about this, but I am a romantic at heart.

Fancy spritz at Il Borro
Fancy spritz at Il Borro

Where to get Aperitivo in Florence 

Let me start by explaining that not all of my suggestions will have the traditional “aperitivo” service. They often will not have a buffet but rather small bites which they bring to your table, perhaps a small buffet or aperitivo-appropriate foods to order off the menu. They will have great drinks and wine lists. Don’t let the 10eu buffet + drink marketing ploy lure you in. Read between the lines and you’ll see that most of the food at these buffets are crap in quality as well as the drink. Pay maybe 2 euros more or sometimes even the same amount (10eu) and you get yes a smaller portion but drastically improved quality. Save your appetite for dinner! Aperitivo is not dinner! Food and drink are one of those experiences I believe we should justify investing in.

Where to get Aperitivo in Florence Let’s start by neighborhood:

Inside Vagalume in Florence (Piazza dei Ciompi)
Inside Vagalume in Florence (Piazza dei Ciompi)

SANTA CROCE & SANT’AMBROGIO

Dondino- Great location, stick with the bubbly and avoid other drinks. They bring a little platter of snacks to you. Address: Piazza Santa Croce, 6r

Ditta Artigianale- A specialty coffee bar that also specializes in craft gin cocktails. They bring a humble plate of “tapas.” Address: Via dei Neri, 32/R

Vagalume- No buffet, but a great place to grab a quality glass of wine, a craft Italian beer and a small plate of Tuscan antipasti before heading off to dinner. In the warmer months they have tables outside and is in a buzzing zone. Address: Via Pietrapiana, 40

Caffe Fiorentino- This is kind of a dive bar but it is authentic. It may not fit my bill of high quality but it does in what Italy is. This is what an Italian bar is like, especially outside touristic centers of cities like Florence, and is beautifully still stuck in the 80’s. Cheap drinks, salty snacks, games and cozy seating.

Quelo- Awesome artsy option for vegan/vegetarians and for those who want a raw pressed juice cocktail to off-set the toxic effects of alcohol 😉 They don’t have an official cocktail list, but just tell them what kind of fruits and flavors you like and they’ll customize. Address: Borgo Santa Croce, 15R

Superfox- NEW. Great for vintage cocktails with funky spins like pomegranate juice and fresh popped popcorn and other finger food snacks. Address: Via della Vigna Vecchia, 27

Lardo crostini at Fuoriporta go well with Durello spumante
Lardo crostini at Fuoriporta go well with Durello spumante

SAN NICCOLO’/PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO

Fuoriporta- A wine bar restaurant open all day with non-stop hours. Small, thoughtful wine selection and if they have Durello on the menu- order it. Nosh with one of their lavish crostone. Address: Via del Monte alle Croci, 10/R

Gecko Bar & Grill- visit this post for more info. Great laid back, modern bar with a tasty, fresh buffet last time I checked. Nice ginger-based cocktails and beers. Address: Via dei Renai, 11

VIA TORNABUONI/NEAR THE TRAIN STATION

Il Borro- visit this post for more info. They serve their wines from the Borro estate in Arezzo and have a more luxury-style cocktail offer with boutique liqueurs and spirits. Address: Lungarno Acciaiuoli, 80r

Procacci- Truffle sandwiches and bubbles. Need I say more? Small shop, come early. Address: Via de’ Tornabuoni, 64r

Caffe Giacosa- Said to be the original location (when it was Cafe Casoni) where the Negroni was 1st served. You gotta have a Negroni where it was born! Address: Via della Spada, 10/r

NEAR THE DUOMO

Move On- Cannot beat the location and the fact they have some artisan beers from the Dolomites in Northern Italy on draft- sometimes you just need a good beer, a view and crostini. The food is not terrible for being so strategically located but definitely nothing more than bar food. Address: Piazza S. Giovanni, 1/R (pretty much in the Duomo’s main square. Can’t miss it)

Fiaschetteria Nuvoli- I’ve had plenty of interesting evenings here with countless crostini (truffle, fegatino, sausage, etc) accompanied by legit glasses of wine both in the small bar area upstairs and the underground cellar/seating area below. Great snack bar for afternoon or evening aperitivo. Very rustic, wood-finished typical Tuscan soulful/local hang-out. Address: Piazza dell’Olio, 15/r

 

Vodka Beat at Lo Sverso (pair with their chunky veg hummus and flatbread)
Vodka Beat at Lo Sverso (pair with their chunky veg hummus and flatbread)

SAN LORENZO/CENTRAL MARKET 

Lo Sverso- Modern, artsy contemp young crowd hang-out spot. Great for vegan and vegetarian travelers. They have nice homemade veggie spreads, breads, special salami from Le Marche and craft Italian beers on draft as well as decently priced cocktails. Address: Via Panicale, 7R

La Casa del Vino- Love the crostini toscani (fegatino chicken liver pate toasts), the selection of wine and other finger food snacks like cheeses and meats. Feels like Florence in the 80’s with some old world yet stylish soul. Address: Via dell’Ariento, 16r

Craft libations at Fusion and the token Italian hairy chest (sorry, Andrea)
Craft libations at Fusion and the token Italian hairy chest (sorry, Andrea)

NEAR THE UFFIZI

Rivoire- One of the bars that poured Negroni during the age it was born in. And the bar counter offers the traditional Italian aperitivo of potato chips, olives and other salty cracker snacks.  Piazza della Signoria, 5

Fusion Bar at Gallery Art Hotel- Not super duper close to the Uffizi but close enough, this bar has fab cract cocktails and you guessed it- fusion snacks inspired from Japan to pair along. Address: Vicolo dell’Oro, 3

summer cherry cocktails at the Lucchesi Hotel Rooftop Bar in Florence
summer cherry cocktails at the Lucchesi Hotel Rooftop Bar in Florence

ROOFTOP FANCY

Westin Excelsior- Probably the best rooftop view of Florence, sleek service and proper drinks (and thoughtful food) for a luxury hotel Aperitivo experience Address: Piazza Ognissanti, 3

Grand Hotel Minevra- Great location near the train station Santa Maria Novella for simple yet drinkable drinks and awesome views. Food was hit or miss. Recommending solely for convenience and views. Address: Piazza Santa Maria Novella, 16

Hotel Lucchesi (Empireo Bar)- I really dig this bar- the rooftop is spacious with the 2nd best views of the city and has more of a young, casual vibe in comparison to uber luxury Westin where I felt out of place without a fancy pair of earrings and shawl. The finger food was acceptable when I went here on a Yelp terrace aperitivo event last summer.Address: Lungarno della Zecca Vecchia, 38

gurdulu bar
Sabrina being the surgeon she is behind the bar at Gurdulu. Girl crush alert. (photo credit: Gurdulu)

PONTE VECCHIO/OLTRARNO/PITTI

Le Volpi e L’Uva- Lovely wine bar with perfect finger food snacks like melted crostini, wines by the glass and tiny truffle filled panini and other rotating product specialties. Address: Piazza dei Rossi, 1R

Gurdulu’- This restaurant is a pioneer in the new/innovative food and drink movement happening in Florence. The bar program is run by Sabrina Galloni who is one of the few barlady, if not the best barlady mixologist in town. Whether  or not you stay for dinner, come to the bar at Gurdulu’ to experience an elevated aperitivo with a quality craft cocktail and chef prepared aperitivo street food gourmet snacks that change weekly from Sicilian panelle (fried chickpea slabs) panini to Venetian-style whipped baccala’ mantecato with chickpea in lieu of cream. Address: Via delle Caldaie, 12R

Pitti Gola Cantina- Smack dab in the square gawking at Palazzo Pitti, this wine bar is for people who take food and wine seriously. Order a snack like pate glazed with a vin santo reduction and pair with a tasting flights selected from their impressive library of wines. Address: Piazza de’ Pitti, 16

Hemingway- Enough with wines, on with the cocktails! A humble nook serving artisan chocolates, uncomplicated vintage cocktails and small aperitivo platters to pair like crackers, olives, cheese and meat.  Address: Piazza Piattellina, 9

All the meats that go magically with the wines at Pane Amore e Fantasia
All the meats that go magically with the wines at Pane Amore e Fantasia

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK (need a taxi/bus/car ride/long walk from the center)

L’Gottino- In the practically unknown zone of Piazza Beccaria, this little wine bar offers select glass pours, tiny sandwiches and a meet/cheese/bruschetta platter for Aperitivo. I recommend it for those who want to get out of the city center (just 10-15minute walk from Santa Croce) and indulge in a slice of a local quarter. Address: Via Vincenzo Gioberti, 174/r

Pane Amore e Fantasia- This place is a food lover’s dream come true. It’s totally out of the way and they have a hypnotizing array of snacks, meats from heritage varieties of swine, an euphoric selection of cheeses and a knock-out collection of wines- especially bubbly. The face of Pane Amore e Fantasia is the charming Lorenzo Vulashi who is incredibly personable, patient and knowledgeable. I’m in love with this place and Lorenzo. This guy provided the wines for that big fat Indian wedding in Florence last November that rang up a 14 MILLION quid bill. This little humble bakery and wine shop has taste and you should go. Via Ponte Alle Mosse 154r

Aperitivo platter at Cafe Dogali (truffle crostini, fried coccoli, prosciutto, salami and a fresh veggies)
Aperitivo platter at Cafe Dogali (truffle crostini, fried coccoli, prosciutto, salami and a fresh veggies)

Cafe Dogali- A local cafe with simple old-school Italian cocktails like aperol soda and spritz or some decent wines by the glass. If I were to do any “apericena,” I might do it here as they come out with their aperitivo foods in rounds as if it were a full-course meal. I like that they do fried coccoli (bread dough) and nice cheeses and meats.  Address: Viale Malta, 5

Gastronomia Galanti- Last but not least, the gastronomy deli of Italy’s awarded best sommelier (as I have previously written about here). Why not sip on wines picked by Italy’s award winning sommelier along with foods made in-house in this family-run and operated shop? Address: Piazza della Libertà, 31/red

For more resources on Aperitivo in Florence, check out these articles I have written either already on the blog, contributed to or for other online magazines:

Aperitivo in Florence- a round up via this blog

Aperitivo Time in Florence- basics and tips via Tuscanycious

Why Aperitivo Still Matters via Girl in Florence

Ideas for Aperitivo foods to make at home via this blog

Where to get cocktails in Florence via Eater.com

Florence’s Cocktail Renaissance via Eater.com

And of course check out this food tour in Florence complete with cocktails and wine: Aperitivo Tour in Florence with Curious Appetite

Stay tuned to this page and my social channels (@curiousappetite on facebook, instagram, snapchat and twitter) for live updates for all things food, drink and aperitivo!

In your Aperitivo trust,

Curious Appetite