The Italians call it happy hour, but it is unlike any happy hour any of us anglosaxons are familiar with. The drinks don’t cost any less than at other times, in fact they may even cost a couple of euros more… the difference is that you get fed! This can be anything from some salted peanuts and savoury nibbles (you wont get charged extra if this is the kind of aperitivo you get) to a full buffet spread with everything from cheeses and cold cuts to pasta salad to pizza to dessert. The second kind of apero is pretty much a Northern Italian thing (Milano!), so you can imagine my surprise when I went for a drink with the girls on Friday and was presented with a full spread!
Now at this point I must state the obvious: this ritual is not about the drinks. It isn’t even about the food, unless you are a poor student with poorer culinary skills who exchanges aperitivi for dinner (ahem, me circa 2005). It is the social aspect of the thing. The aperitivo can last all evening – on Friday we sat down at 8pm and got up around midnight… and we only had one drink. The waiters didn’t give us the evils hoping we would free the table… everyone was doing the same thing. Relaxing, chatting, catching up. Apero’s are how people catch up in Italy, the same way as we might catch up over a coffee. So if someone wants to have an apero on a school night… go ahead, you wont have a hangover! And you may just get to skip dinner and have a cheap night out too considering that the above cost just 6€!
With love, from Italy