The italianissimo ‘Aperitivo’ rite

Giacomo Caffè in Milan, overlooking the Il Duomo, inside Palazzo Reale (I had a cappuccino there with my sister a couple of months ago). Great place 🙂

Hello! Here is the first part of my new post on Patreon (Simona’s Lessons on How To Be Italian) devoted to the italianissimo Aperitivo rite. If you are fond of Italy – or if you know friends who are – please share this link:

When it comes to one of our most in-depth felt rites – the aperitivo – we Italians are often at a loss for words. The aperitivo is a cure-all; you can have it with friends, fellow students, colleagues, more seldom with relatives but – no matter where you get it and with whomever you drink it – the aperitivo is a life attitude and is associated to the italianissima art of sweet doing nothing (‘dolce far niente’) (…)

Now a few fundamental assumptions before we proceed:

– assumption #1: we Italians invented the aperitivo;

– assumption #2: all Italians having an aperitivo are mocking Milanesi (apart from Milanesi themselves of course who are mocking the upper class Milanesi) and deep down feel a sense of inadequacy as

– assumption #3: Milan is the world capital of aperitivo and is the ultimate right place to have a cocktail hour (in all other cities there is always something out of place: the wrong music, too dry olives, too crispy or not enough crispy chips, ad libitum…);

– assumption #4: the rite of the aperitivo may last several hours as it is associated with the art of dolce far niente.

In the 1960’s Donna Letizia, Italy’s supreme authority in the field of etiquette (galateo) married to the greatest Italian journalist of the 20th century Indro Montanelli, wrote the following as far as the aperitivo issue was concerned in her ‘The great house book’ by Donna Letizia (Il grande libro della Casa— by the way she was half English and half Neapolitan and her real name was Colette Cacciapuoti Rosselli):


A group may meet for a simple aperitivo at a friends’ house before going to dine out at the restaurant or to the theatre. As the friends arrive, the house lady will ask them what they wish to drink; according to their choice, she will hand them out a glass of whisky, vermouth or Xeres… At the same time, the lady will offer them savory snacks, olives, pickled vegetables, dried fruit, slowly proceeding with more complex appetizers such as canapés and pizzette; olives, almonds and peanuts cannot be lacking. The idea is that of offering enough savory food to make the guests feel like having a drink; at the same time the food doesn’t have to be too nourishing (…). The main aperitivi are whisky, vermouth, Xeres; more fashionable are now vodka and aromatic herbs-based aperitivi with mineral water (Bitter)…

Going back to our times. Would you like to know how the aperitivo rite is like today? What do Italians drink and eat? Would  you like to know the 5 Ws of aperitivo: what, who, where, when and why (mostly why)?

Well, if you subscribe with $1,00 a month, you’ll get to read 2 gorgeous posts on ‘How to Be Italian’ 😉

Whether you subscribe or not… what is it like having an aperitivo where you live?


  1. I treasure the memory of having an aperitivo with The Counselor in the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele one afternoon in Milan. I didn’t fully appreciate that we were at the very heart of the aperitivo world.

  2. What a lovely idea Simona– I want to invite some friends out for dinner, so they can come to our house first and have an aperitivo!! (I love anything where olives are a must!) Love your posts!! hugs.

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