It’s better than the best American happy hour.
While visiting Florence, you’ll likely spend the day looking forward to a delicious, multi-course dinner. However, Florentines eat late dinners, and if you ignore this cultural difference, you will find yourself eating in a nearly empty restaurant, looking like an out-of-the-loop tourist. Luckily, Italy has the most fun, unique way to tide you over ’til dinner: aperitivo! The social atmosphere and strong drinks are just bonuses.
Aperitivo (a variation of the word aperitif, drinks typically served before or after a meal) is an Italian tradition that celebrates the country’s love of food and friends. So what exactly is aperitivo? It’s better than the best American happy hour. Typically a bar will host aperitivo from around 7p.m. to 10p.m., during which you pay the price of a cocktail of your choice, and have unlimited access to a buffet of fresh, tasty food. You’ll spend an average of 10 euro for a very strong cocktail and an amazing variety of foods, everything from pâté to pasta to fries. See? Way better than happy hour.
An aperitivo spread is not intended to serve as your dinner—Italians use it simply as a way to kick-start their appetite while enjoying a drink and catching up with friends. However, since some of Florence’s most popular aperitivo selections feature so much more than just tiny hors d’oeuvres, it could easily pass for dinner in many cases. Because this originated as a Northern Italian tradition, you will be able to find plenty of bars offering aperitivo throughout Florence. If you need some help deciding where to go for the perfect aperitivo experience, these spots will not disappoint:
Hours: Everyday from 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.
This trendy bar offers an extremely high-quality aperitivo buffet and extensive specialty drink menu. The cool vibe, complete with dimly lit booth seating and old movie posters framed on the walls, makes this is the perfect place to hang out with friends. And with delicious pastas and salads available, you’ll definitely be going back for (at least) seconds.
Hours: Monday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday – Friday 8 a.m. – 2 a.m., Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m. – 2 a.m.
This bar/restaurant crafts beautiful cocktails and offers a great food selection. I highly recommend trying their passion fruit martini, which comes with fresh passion fruit and a vile of prosecco on the side. The aperitivo seating is a bit limited, so making a reservation is a good idea.
Hours: Everyday from 8 a.m. – 3 a.m.
With a more traditional aperitivo buffet featuring small sandwiches and cold salads, this is the perfect place to go before heading to a big dinner. You’ll get to stave off hunger with yummy snacks and enjoy a drink from their huge bar without getting too full. They offer plenty of indoor seating, as well as patio seating for warm Florence nights.
Hours: Everyday from 6 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.
If you want to make aperitivo serve as your dinner, this is the place to go, as their buffet is massive and has great variety. The funky décor and covered outdoor patio make this a fun and casual place to relax and sip on one of their extremely strong cocktails. Be sure to make a reservation if you’re planning on arriving later than 8 p.m., because this place fills up fast!