Aperitivo Hour in Florence

Florentines are a social bunch and love to sit down for an apertivo or pre-dinner drink with friends. The city even has it’s own cocktail invented nearly a century ago by Count Camillo Negroni. The count was tired of his usual Campari, Vermouth and seltzer and asked the barman to replace the selzer with gin. The drink became an instant hit and today Negroni and other cocktails are served with light snacks from 5pm onwards. There are plenty of cocktail bars to choose from and ordering an aperitivo is the perfect way to start an evening in Florence.

Many hotel bars often have great views and Plaza Luchese (Lungarno della Zecca Vecchia 38, 055/26236, 9am-12am) is no exception but the Empireo bar also vaunts a spectacular riverside terrace and swimming pool. From Monday to Thursday the aperitivo includes a meticulously prepared buffet with live music for a modest €14. On weekends there’s an a la carte menu.

Soul Kitchen (Via dei Benci 34, 055/263-9772, daily 5pm-3am, €8-10) is located on a lively street near Piazza Santa Croce. There’s an extensive hot and cold buffet set on two long tables that can easily substitute dinner. Leather couches and brick provide the atmosphere and the piano at the back is often played. If you can’t decide on a cocktail let the barmen surprise you.

The Winter Garden by Caino (Piazza Ognissanti 1, daily 11am-1am) recently earned its first Michelin star and deserves it on the decoration alone. But if you come to this hotel along the Arno for drinks the great hall provides an eyeful of architecture and elegance. The meticulous bar and buffet are well-stocked and cozy living room like niches await. Bloody Mary prepared with the addition of Grappa di Brunello is the house cocktail.

Don’t bother asking them to turn down the music at Volume (Piazza Santo Spirito 5r, 055/238-1460, daily 9:30am-1:30am, €5-8). They like things loud at this former workshop turned bar where carpentry tools are still on display and none of the armchairs match. Inside bands often perform and conversation is possible on the outdoor patio overlooking the square.

Negroni (Via dei Renai 17r, 055/243-647, daily 8am-2am, €7-10) is named after the city’s favorite cocktail and the namesake is the obvious drink to order. The bar’s been the backdrop for several films and a forerunner of the aperitivo movement. Crowds spill out onto the small terrace and surrounding sidewalks during the summer when getting the bartender’s attention can be difficult. Ask for finger snacks (stuzzichini per favore) if they aren’t served.

Viale Machiavelli is an elegant tree-lined avenue that begins in Piazzale di Porta Romana and snakes its way up the Oltrearno hillside. There are many villas along the way but Villa Cora (Viale Machiavelli 18, 055/228-790, Thurs.-Sat, 7pm-10pm, €20) is where Napoleon III’s wife and conductor Claude Debussy chose to reside. There are several bars and restaurants inside this refined five star hotel including a Champaign bar, bistro and poolside lounge. Fridays and Saturdays are devoted to enjoying cocktails, tapas and live Jazz.

Pasticceria Giorgio (Via Duccio di Boninsegna 36, 055/247-9738, Tues.-Sat. 7am-8:30pm, Sun. 7am-1:30pm, €10-14) doesn’t care about fancy. This pastry shop and bar is more concerned with the food and puts on one of the buffet spreads in the city on the long bar where locals jostle to fill their plates and sip their drinks. If you manage to get a table waiters will come by with new delicacies that are hazardous to diets. Although not in the center it’s a good excuse to visit a real neighborhood and walk off the calories you’re sure to gain.
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