The aperitivo is basically the Italian version of what we would consider happy hour. Normally, this cultural ritual takes place between the hours of 4-6pm as a relaxed drink and/or snack before dinner. (Remember, Italians start eating dinner as late as 10pm!). Stemming from the Latin word ‘aperire’ meaning “to open”, this classic early evening drink is meant as a way of “opening” the stomach, and preparing one for dinner. I find it interesting how in Italy, every single thing you do seems to have a deeper meaning. Whereas in the U.S. a happy hour is simply that, in Italy it represents a cultural coming together of people that evokes emotions of camaraderie and intimacy in perfect harmony.
While in Salerno, I was lucky enough to have participated in 2 aperitivos! Because they were both sponsored through the Italian school, however, we were unable to drink alcohol. No matter, because I’ve learned that the art of the celebration is not about what you’re drinking, but the environment and people in which you’re doing it with!
Aperitivo #1 took place at a place down the street from the school, with the 8 of us in our study abroad group and one of our teachers, Raffaele. First we started with a round of Crodino’s, a popular unalcoholic bitter fruit drink. It’s difficult to put my finger on the intense flavor of this sparkling drink, but I can best describe it as an Aperol Spritz sans alcohol. After our Italian cuisine seminar, I learned that no trip to Salerno could be complete without trying a Sfogliatella. Created in Salerno, this pastry is a flaky shell-shaped treat, filled with cream, ricotta, or even fruit curds and topped with powdered sugar. So of course, there was no better time to try it! Mine ended up being filled with a lemony ricotta that perfectly complemented the crunchy exterior!
Aperitivo #2 took place prior to our “Farewell Dinner”, shortly after our trip to a special art exhibit taking place in Salerno. Our lovely waitress prepared a non-alcoholic cocktail for us with fruit juice, ginger, mint, and mixed in with grapes and watermelon! This delicious drink perfectly paired with the array of finger foods set out for us consisting of tomato and basil topped bruschetta, finger sandwiches, peanuts, and Italian Taralli (seriously don’t skip out on trying these crunchy, ring shaped crackers!). No better way to celebrate the end of our trip than with good people and good food!
Definitely don’t miss out on the chance to take part in an aperitivo when in Italy! This quintessential celebration is a must for anyone looking to truly take part in an authentic Italian experience!
Ciao a tutti!