A Guide to the Best Aperitivo in Montalcino, Italy
Opera singers warm up their vocal chords before they sing, soccer players warm up their muscles before they play, and chess players warm up their minds before a big tournament.
Italians warm up their taste buds before they eat.
Once you experience it, the Italian aperitivo seems like the most obvious of customs. The familiar tourist refrain can be heard around 6-9pm, from Milan down to Naples, as they nibble on their bruschetta and sip their wine: “Why don’t they do this everywhere?!”
What is Aperitivo?
It’s basically just the Italian version of happy hour, right?
No, my dear foreign friends, it is not.
Like happy hour, aperitivo is very much a social activity and a time for leisure. However, whereas happy hour consists of cheap beer and food discounts meant to increase bar sales during slow hours, Italian aperitivo is much more about quality and function than quantity...and drunken disfunction.
Aperitivo in a nutshell: top-notch beverages and small plates concocted specifically to arouse your appetite before dinner. The drinks aren’t discounted during these hours, but they don’t need to be - wine in Italy is often triple the quality for half the price as compared to, let’s say, the United States. Plus, the finger food buffet is often a free bonus.
What Do You Drink for Aperitivo?
The aperitivo tradition is rooted in medicine (ah, the good old days, when doctors prescribed alcohol for all of your ailments).