Aperitivo Vs. Apericena: What’s The Difference?

by Bianca @ Italian Fix


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When in Italy, you gotta indulge in two of our fave foodie rituals: aperitivo and apericena

These two pre-dinner traditions embody the elements we adore about Italy –– taking time to unwind, bringing friends together, sampling *all* the snacks…

And frankly, we love any excuse to have a glass of Prosecco 😉

They’re easy to mix up though, especially since apericena has only been gaining popularity in recent years.

So before you work up an appetite for your next plate of pasta, find out which ritual is right for you, and what makes them core pieces of Italian culture.

What is aperitivo?

As far back as the 1700s, it was believed that the perfect combination of herbs and alcohol would open up your taste buds and stimulate your appetite, which is the reason cafes started to become filled with intellectuals sipping on Negronis, and royals began to include a pre-dinner drink as part of their own routine.

And so aperitivo was born.

As time went on, aperitivo evolved into an post-work but pre-dinner Italian institution. Given that Italians tend to eat dinner late –– around 9PM –– aperitivo has always filled that gap between punching out at around 6PM and going home.

To us, the purpose of aperitivo in Italy is simple: to bring friends together at the end of the day to chat, smile and work up a healthy appetite for dinner.

aperitivo apericena drinks

Aperitivo 101:

  • When to go: Aperitivo hours are typically between 5PM–8PM.
  • What drinks to order: Our go-to aperitivi include Negroni, Aperol Spritz, Bellini, Prosecco or a small beer. Don’t want alcohol? It’s not mandatory! Ask your bartender to whip up an analcolico con frutta and you’ll be obsessed.
  • What snacks to expect: This is the beauty of aperitivo –– it’s so different depending on where you are in Italy! Each region has its own spin –– it’s typically a mix of small sandwiches, potato chips, olives or peanuts.
  • How much you’ll spend: A typical aperitivo can cost you anywhere between €5–€12. That will get you a drink, serviced with snacks.

aperitivo apericena laughter

aperitivo apericeno cocktail and nibbles

What is apericena?

Um, does Italy need more than one pre-dinner ritual? Yes. We’re big fans!

The easiest way to describe apericena is that it’s a cross between the aperitivo and cena (which means “dinner” in Italian) –– such a great remix.

While aperitivo is really more about the cocktails, apericena is basically the perfect middle ground between a full-blown dinner and some nibbles. All of our tour clients experience this way of eating, and it’s perfect for days where you want a light meal in the evening… with a lot of variety.

The upgrade from aperitivo is due in part to spots like Milan and Turin, where the student population is high and budgets are not. Seeing that so many students didn’t have the time to head home for dinner between events or the budget to eat out at restaurants, bars began to offer apericena in the form of buffets with homemade hot and cold dishes and drinks for cheap.

The trend caught on quickly, and now you can find apericena spots –– from cool ‘n’ casual to fab ‘n’ fancy –– in cities like Florence, Pisa and Bologna. With traditions shifting, not everyone wants to be cooking every night (or can go home to mama’s table either), so meets historic tradition and current culture right in the middle.

Apericena 101:

  • How it works: Just like aperitivo, turn up at a bar known for its apericena between 6PM–9PM. All that changes is that you won’t go anywhere afterwards for dinner!
  • What to expect at the buffet: Ooh, the goodies here are endless. Risottos, bruschette, salads, crostini, roasted vegetables, pasta, cured meats. You won’t be short on options.
  • How much you’ll spend: A typical apericena session can cost you anywhere between €10–€20.

aperitivo apericena in a piazza

aperitivo apericena with friends

aperitivo apericena nibbles

How we can help you apericena:

Pretty much every night we spend on our Greatest Hits tour involves a memorable meal in the making, and the fourth day on this 12-night tour is where we share the apericena experience with our tour clients in the best spot: Florence.

The morning of…

You’ll leave the vineyards and olive groves of Montalcino, where you just spent two nights overlooking the sprawling Tuscan countryside, sipping on poolside Negronis by day and winding your way through vineyards by dusk.

On your way to Florence…

We’ll make a pit stop in Siena, so we can show you why we think she’s so sexy, including a walking tour with our expert guides. A sweet little taste of Siena that will have you planning to come back for more.

And then we’ll whisk you away to… 

Your dreamy, centuries-old hotel in Florence. This is the dolce vita, and you are living it one day at a time.

Where we’ll gather together for… 

Apericena, family-style, at a panoramic rooftop bar overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. At sunset. This is the best way to enjoy this romantic city: heading to higher ground to literally drink in ridiculously gorgeous views with the best company –– friends you’ve been laughing over limoncello with for the last three nights.

aperitivo apericena in florence

aperitivo apericena with guide


Want a seat at our aperitivo + apericena –– table?

Join us in April 2020 on the tour we call Greatest Hits, where you’ll see, do and eat it all in Italy’s iconic hot spots.

Rome, Montalcino, Florence, Cinque Terre, Lake Como and Venice.

We’ve only got one date available in 2020 for this 12-night experience:

==> April 25 – May 7 (all adults welcome).

Click here to snag your lounger at our poolside.

Got questions?

Leave a comment below and we’ll jump in to help!

aperitivo apericena in a garden


Photo Credit:
1, 2, 3, 6, 7 — Leela Cyd
4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14 — Danielle Rubi
11, 12 — D’Arcy Benincosa


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