Visit any Italian city and you’ll soon realise that enjoying a well-made aperitivo, cocktail or glass of good wine before dinner is a daily activity. The passegiata, or early evening stroll, is still a traditional ritual for many Italians. It’s as much an opportunity to people-watch as it is to enjoy a drink, and is a great time to socialise and soak up the local atmosphere. There’s also plenty of choice when it comes to drinks, from fabulous Italian wines to extravagant cocktails and inventive twists on classic concoctions.
With its vaulted brick ceiling and old-style wooden bookcases filled with an impressive selection of bottles, intimate Sei Divino is a relaxing place to linger over a glass of wine in particular. The bar offers visitors a choice of 118 bottles, 81 of which are available by the glass, and showcases locally produced wines as much as possible. The cocktails are equally impressive, and there’s also a small menu of seasonal Florentine dishes, made to order by the bar’s talented chef, to complement your choice of drink.
Sei Divino, Borgo Ognissanti 42R, 50123 Florence, +39 055 215794
This strangely named bar is often listed as one of the best in Milan and, indeed, the world. While the décor is nautical with a distinctly Polynesian vibe, the drinks themselves are served in laboratory glassware – a nod to the experimental nature of the concoctions they hold. Owner Dario Comino is the self-described ‘bar chef’, bringing his formidable culinary knowledge to the art of cocktail making. Those looking for something a little unusual should try the Archimede, served in stacked glasses, whose alcohol content actually varies depending on how one of the two containers is raised or lowered.
Nottingham Forest, Viale Piave 1, 20129 Milan, +39 02 798311
The Jerry Thomas Project
Gaining access to this award-winning Roman bar is no mean feat. Visitors need to provide the password, which changes every two weeks, to even step through the door of this Italian version of a speakeasy. The bar is decked out in a charmingly old-school style, complete with chesterfield sofas and a piano; the atmosphere is intimate and the cocktails are among the best in Rome. Many of the drinks utilise out-of-fashion Italian spirits and the attention to detail is exemplary, such as in the Old Fashioned, which is made with real sugar-cane pulp.
The Jerry Thomas Project, Vicolo Cellini 30, 00186 Rome, +39 06 9684 5937
Le Volpi e L’Uva
Located conveniently close to the Ponte Vecchio, Florentine wine bar Le Volpi e L’Uva is committed to working with small producers to ensure the quality and flavour of what it offers. The bar has around 50 different wines for tasting, and the menu changes each month. Alongside a great selection of mainly Italian red and white wines, guests can also enjoy a variety of cheese and cold meat platters, hot bites such as crostini with Asiago cheese and truffled sausage, and delicious finger sandwiches filled with porcini mushroom and white truffle spread.
Le Volpi e L’Uva, Piazza dei Rossi 1, 50125 Florence, +39 055 239 8132
Having a drink at Caffè Florian is a must for those visiting Venice. The legendary establishment in Piazza San Marco opened its doors in 1720, making it one of the oldest cafés in the world, with a rich history to match. While it’s open throughout the day, it’s the ideal spot for a memorable aperitivo. Ensconce yourself in the baroque splendour of the interior or take a seat on the terrace and enjoy one of the nightly concerts while sipping Florian’s anniversary cocktail, a heady blend of the bar’s red vermouth mixed with gin, cherry liqueur, prosecco and grapefruit juice.
Caffè Florian, Piazza San Marco, San Marco 57, 30124 Venice, +39 041 520 5641