The sun is setting. People stroll down Corso Italia. Countless conversations surround you.
Your drink collects condensation in the warmth of the evening. Meats and cheeses sit at your table, waiting to be eaten.
What I’ve described is the epitome of an aperitivo in Sorrento.
Aperitivo is traditionally a light drink or cocktail (normally on the more bitter side) and a small snack that precedes the time of dinner.
The timing of this tradition is important because it is meant to “kickstart” your appetite for dinner.
This purpose is even clear from the word itself. The word ‘aperitivo’ comes from the Latin phrase ‘aperire’, which means ‘to open.’
In the most literal sense, aperitivo is meant to ‘open’ your stomach and increase your appetite to prepare for dinner!
Additionally, it is said that bitterness can prompt your appetite, which is why Aperol and Campari have become synonymous with aperitivo.
However, drink choices of aperitivo are certainly not limited to these two.
Aperitivo: the origins
The origins of this social, pre-dinner experience is said to have started with the creation of Vermouth.
Antonio Benedetto Carpano invented Vermouth in 1786; it is an aromatic fortified wine that is flavored with various botanicals, herbs, and spices.
Soon this drink rose in popularity and became the signature drink to have when sharing time with company.
During this time, it was looked down upon to drink without eating, so hence, the beloved social tradition of drinking and snacking before dinner was born.
Every bit as charming as expected: my experience of aperitivo was the perfect way to slow down the day, enjoy a drink with a friend, and take some time to observe the bustling center of Sorrento.
This past week marked the halfway point of my stay here in Sorrento, and there was no better time to experience the signature aperitivo.
It’s very easy for me to get caught up in planning the next few weeks of my study abroad to try to fit in every last activity on my to-do list.
An aperitivo was the perfect reminder to take time to slow down and enjoy the moment I am in and appreciate the friends around me!
Earlier in the day and before aperitivo, I spent a few hours enjoying the beautiful beaches of Marina Piccola and swimming though the crystal-clear water to stay cool underneath the gleaming sunshine.
That said, by the time the hours of aperitivo rolled around (anytime around 18:00-20:00), I was ready to get out of the sun and enjoy a refreshing drink as the night began.
I chose the signature Aperol spritz for my pre-dinner drink, and the slightly bitter and slightly sweet drink paired perfectly with the complimentary salty snacks brought out along with the meats and cheeses my friend and I shared.
The slower-paced way of life
Over this small meal, my friend and I chatted about all the activities we have done so far since arriving and reflected on the amazing experiences we have had in Sorrento so far.
We also took advantage of our street-side view to watch all the different people stroll by.
We saw families smiling (or, of course, sometimes bickering) together, groups of friends laughing, couples in love, individuals walking their dogs, and many more groups of people enjoying their night.
Personally, this experience revealed the slower-paced way of life that is so closely tied to Italian culture.
Thankfully, I still have plenty of time for more aperitivos in the upcoming weeks to once again experience this fun, leisurely tradition.