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? 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 (negroni, vermouth, spritz, etc) or light alcoholic drink (prosecco, light wine, beer) before the events of a meal are about to ensue.
Over time, this food & drink ritual has evolved to be “aperi-cena/dinner”, big buffets of food with poorly crafted mixed drinks which sweetly stun appetite rather than stimulate. One of my goals as a food blogger in Italy 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.
Why is Aperitivo so important? Aperitivo is also a fab social activity. There is something electric about the social energy you find in neighborhood bars around Italy at aperitivo time. I think its important that we spend time with each other and form strong bonds. I feel that food & drink is one of these social glues which 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.
Where to get Aperitivo in Florence
Let me start by explaining that not all of my suggestions will have the traditional “aperitivo” service. I will not recommend any bar in Piazza Santo Spirito except T’Amero because they all serve what I call “aperitrash.” Call me a food snob, but deep down you too know the food served at most aperitivo is complete and utter junk (robaccia).
Rarely will I list an address for 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. Unless you’re a student, bite the bullet and shell out a few extra euros for quality. And even if you were a student- have some dignity and ditch kitsch.
Yes, you may pay the same or even more for a smaller portion but you’ll be rewarded with drastically improved quality. Save your appetite for dinner! Aperitivo is not dinner!
Where to get Aperitivo in Florence Let’s start by neighborhood:
SANTA CROCE & SANT’AMBROGIO
Caffe Sant’Ambrogio- Stick to the chips and peanuts but revel in the fine candy shop that is their wine list. They have a wicked selection of Champers (champagne) and are popular for Martinis. This is one of those places where you are here for the locals and the quality of the drinks, and actually consistent service. The bar itself is dark but they have tables outside. Wear some mosquito spray though during the summer if you’re like me and mosquitos love you. Address: Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, 7r
Rex- Funky vintage accoutered bar with an eclectic selection of craft cocktails and DJ sets and live music late night. I like the bar snacks you can order to accompany your drink (butter and anchovy mini-toasts mostly) Address: Via Fiesolana, 25r
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. Dirt cheap drinks, salty snacks, games and cozy seating.
Quelo- 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
SAN NICCOLO’/PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO
Negroni- This bar once a tragic Florentine institution in San Niccolo’ just got a much needed re-design of everything: the menu and interior, it helps they changed management via the same owners of T’Amero Pasta Bar in Piazza Santo Spirito to make the food edible. They have a cocktail list, by no means craft or mixology fancy, but something better than a godawful menu limited to vodka lemon, watery negroni and aperol spritz. Address: Via dei Renai, 17/r
Fuoriporta Enoteca- 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
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 wine bar feel during aperitivo hour, they have fascinating cheese and meats, and during Aperitivo hour they have simple carbs like homemade focaccia, chips and olives. 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
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
Irene Firenze- Get a seat at the swanky retro-vintage bar or on the patio and order a craft cocktail and they’ll bring a few thoughtful canapé bites. A bit on the pricy side, but once in a while drinking classy smack dab in a historical square is worth it. Address: Piazza della Repubblica, 7
SAN LORENZO/CENTRAL MARKET
Lo Sverso- Modern & artsy 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
Sabor Cubano- Best rum-based, refreshing cocktails (the only place to get a mojito in my eyes) in town run by Cuban sweetheart Lopez Martinez. They serve nothing but a banana boat of plantain chips and sometimes fresh fruit. Not a traditional Aperitivo joint but I love Sabor Cubano so much that it would have broken my heart to exclude it from a drinks list. Address: Via Sant’Antonino, 64R
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
NEAR THE UFFIZI & PONTE VECCHIO
Amble- I sincerely like the drinks, vibe and vintage decor here. What I’ve never liked is the horrible snooty attitudes of the staff. Their concept of tramezzini & spritz are a hipster throwback to my jaunts to Venice, eating and drinking every triangle wonder bread sandy & cynar spritz in sight. But I really wish the staff would get an attitude adjustment, perhaps it’s just one barman/waiter but he is so unpleasant, that he ruins it for me. Drink at your own risk. Address: Piazzetta dei Del Bene, 7/A,
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 snacks like pastry pizzette. Piazza della Signoria, 5
Fusion Bar at Gallery Art Hotel- Fusion is probably the only place next to Iyo Iyo to get sushi, and not only that, one of the few who boldly experiment deliciously with the Negroni. Not super duper close to the Uffizi but close enough, this bar has fab craft cocktails and you guessed it- fusion snacks inspired from Peru & Japan to pair along. Address: Vicolo dell’Oro, 3
Westin Excelsior- Probably the best rooftop view of Florence, sleek service and proper drinks (and edible food at their buffet) for a luxury hotel Aperitivo experience Address: Piazza Ognissanti, 3
Il Continentale- Just in front of Fusion, this is probably my ultimate favorite rooftop to get aperitivo simply because the drinks don’t suck (most rooftop bars utterly suck at making craft cocktails or anything drinkable but instead bank on their location) and the view is also pretty sweet. Address: Vicolo dell’Oro, 6r
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)- The rooftop is spacious with the 2nd best views of the city and has more of a young, casual vibe in comparison to luxury Westin where I felt out of place without a fancy dress. The finger food was visually impressive and on the palate acceptable last time I went. Address: Lungarno della Zecca Vecchia, 38
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
Il Santino- Natural wines, or wines from small producers and a complimentary snack to pair. If you are feeling peckish, I suggest you delight in a bottle of bubbles and a mozzarella and anchovy crostino with a couple pals. They have incredible farmstead cheeses and meats for a delectable, choice tagliere. Get here early- the spot fills up quick and it’s tiny but worth every penny. Address: Via di Santo Spirito, 60/R
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
Mad Souls & Spirits- Super unpretentious bar that feels like a sports bar but with no TV, Mad does everything but Aperol Spritz (thank god). They serve a tiny platter of raw crudite, olives, chips and finger panini like tramezzini. A sensible pick if all you’re looking for is a pre-dinner drink, and not necessarily wanting to be at a scene-y locale. Address: Borgo S. Frediano, 36-38r
Kawaii- Termed a cocktail & sake bar, they have a tiny menu of Japanese-inspired bar snacks and an impressive shelf stocked of small batch spirits and liquors. Snacks include raw sashimi and mini ramen bowls. I dig this place even for late night bites and drinks. Address: Borgo S. Frediano, 8/R
Dolce Vita- If you MUST do the whole buffet thing, I do not entirely hate Dolce Vita. They have decent gin & tonics (artisan tonic sodas and craft gin) and I remember the food not being disgusting. I promised I wasn’t going to list buffets, but Dolce Vita is a total Florentine spot everyone needs to kick it at least once if you are in Florence for more than 3 seconds. Address: Piazza del Carmine, 6/R
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
Serafini- They have a buffet I’d actually recommend- I suspect some of it is leftovers from the same-day’s lunch service, but the upside is they are mostly pastry goods they bake on-site, mini-pizza bites and plenty of vegetable options (crudite mostly) to pick from which cannot be ****ed up. They make decent spritz (ask for Campari or Cynar- aperol is a sugary overrated mess) and their wine selection is surprisingly decent. I love Serafini’s coffee scene during the day, too. Address: Via Gioberti, 168/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
Dogana- They have a whole case of gourmet crostini (loads of crushed pistachio, swoon!) and respectable cured meat & cheese platters. The place is TINY so get there early and stick to a bottle of bubbly for aperitivo (their house wine is not worth saving a few euros over) Address: Piazza Francesco Ferrucci, 3
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,