If you’re new to Italy, you’ll notice people begin drinking an orange substance during the 11am-12:30pm and 4-8pm time frames. Tables line sidewalks and piazzas and it seems as though everyone has the time to stop for a “spritz”, slow down and enjoy life. This time is known as aperitivo, or pre-dinner drinks, time. You may wonder what exactly they are drinking that could be so orange? The answer is (usually) an Aperol Spritz, something I’m going to miss a lot come August. Aperol is a type of bitter and to make a spritz, it is mixed with prosecco (sparkling white wine), sparkling water and topped with a slice of orange. Occasionally it can be found with a green olive inside as an extra garnish. In my opinion, the best Aperol spritz goes light on the sparkling water component. Most Italians seem to enjoy this beverage, but of the Americans we know in Italy, it seems to be a polarizer which is either loved or hated. The PashbyMauls are in the love camp. Aperitivi are usually accompanied by little snacks like chips. If you are a non-Aperol lover, you can order prosecco, white wine or even a non-alcoholic gingerino or fruit juice while you enjoy the company of your friends. If you read this post, then you remember that going out for an Aperitivo is more culturally appropriate and nicer then going out for a coffee date here. I’d strongly recommend that you find a piazza wherever you are, find a cafe, and sit there while you enjoy life as it passes by around you. There is nothing more Italian in terms of experiences you could have!
Now enter the apericena. This means an aperitivo with a pre-dinner buffet of munchies attached to the price! An Aperol Spritz is usually €3-5 depending on the area, where an apericena is anywhere from €8.50-15. That’s why, if you go to a place that has apericena, but don’t eat anything, you will essentially be paying 2-3 times the normal price of an aperitivo. When you go to an apericena, it will look like the following:
This amazing Mediterranean spread has enough flavor and variety to be the actual dinner! And that’s our tip for the budget-conscious travelers to Italy: instead of paying for a sit-down meal, pay for a small buffet (usually cold plates, but always fresh and good) and an accompanying beverage. If you’re watching your wallet and your Italy survival plan is to subsist on panini bought from a vender in the middle of the day, then the apericena is the perfect compliment in the evening. Likewise, if you are semi-vegetarian or vegetable-obsessed, you will find more options then you would if you just ate sandwiches all day. Just look at my amazing vegetarian plate:
With that said, not all apericena are created equal, so it’s best to follow these guidelines:
- Speck out all apericeni in the area before making your choice. Not all of them have fresh food. We made the mistake of having one that was abysmal with fried food from the day before. You’re looking for freshness and variety, so peer through the windows to be sure you won’t be stuck with a nasty one.
- Not all places have apericena. If you don’t see a small buffet, it likely means that the area doesn’t normally do apericena. On the flip side, if all you want is a drink, but the restaurant has a buffet, you’re going to pay dearly for that one measly drink!
- Order wine if you’re worried about a watered-down cocktail. I’m pretty particular about how my Aperol spritz tastes since I can make them at home. That means that usually I’m disappointed by a watered-down Aperol that isn’t how I would have done it. It’s acceptable to order the house red or white, prosecco or an aperitivo, so choose whichever you think will make you most satisfied.
I hope you’ll enjoy an Aperol spritz and apericena the next time you travel to Italy!