Let me explain something to you straight away: here in Veneto, aperitivo time is the most sacred moment of the day! Thanks to the region’s great wine-making tradition, here in Veneto we have grown used to celebrating special occasions with a glass of fine wine or, when it’s aperitif time, with a spritz. As anyone who has spent any time in Verona will have noticed, the great tradition of the aperitif is deeply embedded in our region’s culture.
An aperitif Veneto style: wine, food and sharing
Verona, as befits its status as one of the region's great cities, combines this tradition of a love for fine wine and good food with the joy of socialising. Because the very best part of this custom is spending time together. Nothing lifts the spirits at the end of a long working day like meeting some friends and sharing a glass of wine, grazing on some finger food as you set the world to rights. Along with some gentle background music, these are the ingredients for the perfect Veneto aperitif, surrounded by the stunning sights of the city, enhancing the unique ambience of the local bars.
A tradition which unites everyone
The old city (and in the suburbs which are not to be outdone) is full of traditional osterie, wine bars and taverns which before lunch and especially before dinner are bursting with life. These hostelries are places where you can relax in the sunshine and unwind from the stresses of the day. They are popular with both tourists and locals of all ages. Because the aperitivo, as with all the best traditions, knows no age limits.
If you want to throw yourself into the student nightlife, you should visit the Veronetta district, the main university area which is normally teeming with youngsters enjoying their aperitif as a break from their studies.
The city centre is itself always lively and bustling during the most cheerful part of the day, when you can take a seat in one of the traditional Veronese bars for your aperitif, mixing with young and old, tourists and business people, couples on their first date, tour groups and extended families. Verona comes alive during the 'happy hour'. My tip is to take a break, relax and enjoy the charm of the city from a different point of view.
Once upon a time, a spritz was born...
The undisputed king of the aperitivo is the spritz, now famous across the world. There are numerous types, the best known being made with Aperol from Padua but there is also the deep-red version with Campari, Cynar, made with artichokes, a ‘neat’ version with just prosecco and soda, a ‘white’ spritz made with still wine, or the Venetian style spritz, made with the famous ‘Select’ liquor. Colourful, refreshing, not too strong, it is the nation’s favourite aperitif and with the huge variety of bitters available in Italy these days, there is sure to be one to suit everyone’s taste!
This famous drink dates back to the turn of the 19th century, when the Hapsburg Empire ruled Lombardy and Veneto. Austrian soldiers were not used to the intensity of our wines, so they would dilute them with a splash or, in German, a “spritz” of sparkling water. The original drink was made of white wine and sparkling water, which in the 1800s was replaced with soda water. Fast forward to the years following the first world war and we find the spritz combined with a drop of bitters, the style we know today. By the 1970s, this much-loved cocktail had spread across the whole region and nowadays it has caught on across the whole of Italy and around the globe.
An aperitif always needs something on the side
Whether you are having a spritz or a glass of wine, the bars of Verona always serve them with a selection of appetisers. The finger food, known locally as cicchetti, which accompanies an aperitif is hard to resist. The assortment might include vegetable fritters or meat balls (to get the true Verona experience, I recommend the ones made with horse meat), cheesy canapés, local cured meats, fried seafood, stuffed olives, sandwiches, pizza slices, salad leaves and much more.
Are you feeling peckish yet? Anyway, you wouldn’t want to eat on an empty stomach, would you? Especially because the first glass is usually followed by a second and, with all these little treats, an aperitif can drag on, morphing into dinner. As you can see, here in Verona we love spending time together and sharing fine wine and good food. For us, the aperitivo is a special time, full of joy, a quick (but not too quick) break to relax, the perfect prelude to dinner. A time of day which, like the finest things in life, is best shared.