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Florence is not a cheap city. With so many tourists and foreign students studying abroad, many of the city’s restaurants and bars have morphed into over-priced, low-quality tourist traps. However, there’s one not-so-secret Italian tradition that provides an alternative to a plate of €20 pasta and rancid wine: the aperitivo.
Between 7 PM and 9 PM, most bars in Italy offer a small buffet to their customers—upon purchase of a drink, naturally. In some places, the aperitivo has become an art form. By picking the right bar, you can enjoy a full, all-you-can-eat buffet for the price of your Campari Spritz. To get your fill in Florence, check out these places:
Via San Gallo or Piazza Beccaria
This bar is famous for its abundant spread, and there will be the crowds to prove it. Try to arrive around 7 or 7:30 PM to get a table, there are even a few outside if the weather is nice. Arriving later usually means waiting for a table and then having people successively waiting for you to leave.
For the price of €8, Kitsch offers you your choice of drink and a buffet of cured meats, cheeses, hot and cold rice and pasta dishes, grilled vegetables, and a few meat dishes. Don’t be afraid of the hard-boiled egg covered in a pink sauce. I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s delicious!
Via de’ Benci, near Santa Croce
The dark mood lighting and “M”-shaped chairs may be a bit much in terms of décor, but don’t let that take away from the reasonably-priced drinks and well-balanced buffet. For about €7, you’ll find mini sandwiches, omelettes, rice and pasta salads, and a few hot dishes. The offerings are a bit lighter than what’s at Kitsch, but the bar is usually less packed and has a more sophisticated vibe.
Piazza Santo Spirito
In terms of aperitivi, this may be a bit of an alternative spot, providing a good vegetarian buffet and some really good people watching. Drinks range from €4 for wine up to €6 for a cocktail. Included are various vegetarian foods, such as couscous, rice salads, and potato dishes.
It’s better to sit outside, even if it’s crowded and you’re forced to the sidewalk of the piazza, because the Pop Café’s interior is small and narrow. But that’s exactly the point of Pop: to eat and drink cheaply and go outside and mingle. You’ll find a nice mix of Italians and foreigners, and as the night goes on the most “picturesque” people come out of the woodwork to provide some notable post-aperitivo entertainment.
So go ahead and try these aperitivi and more! Given the popularity and lure of the aperitivo, bars are constantly changing and offering more. So don’t hesitate to experiment and sample to find the right aperitivo for you.