You cannot spend time in Rome without trying out the infamous Italian tradition of Aperitivo. Are you wondering which bars offer the best aperitivo in Rome? Here’s a handy little guide to point you in the right direction.
Picking The Best Aperitivo in Rome
The genius invention of aperitivo is probably the main reason why I got through my undergraduate degree. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. During my years in Rome, I decided to splurge out on cute, bohemian apartments in trendy Trastevere rather than living further out of the city. While I definitely don’t regret it, I must admit that it certainly wasn’t the best of my financial decisions in life. Money was short, and my food budget even shorter. My rent, on the other hand, was out of this world.
While it might sound a wee bit counterproductive on paper, the habit of eating out actually ended up being my silver lining. The tradition of aperitivo kept me well-fed, slightly tipsy and very happy – and all of that within my super tight student budget.
But What is Aperitivo?
Ah, excellent question. You see, aperitivo is an Italian tradition which is loved by tourists, locals and students alike. An American in Rome, a legend in the Roman blogging scene, even claims that “Aperitivo is by far and away one of the best things about living in Italy. It’s a brilliant invention”.
Aperitivo is a tradition that originated in Milan, but which has now spread throughout Italy like wildfire. It’s a trend you will find in most Italian cities these days – and perhaps especially those cities that caters to a lot of tourists and/or expats. I have seen certain Americans define it as “European happy hour”, which is something I personally find to be untrue. You see, aperitivo is so much more than simply “happy hour” – it’s a tradition.
The typical aperitivo will take place before dinner, which in Italy means that it often will be served between the hours of 6.00/7.00-9.00. While it’s originally intended to be a light nibble before your carb-heavy Italian dinner, this genius invention can actually be dinner itself if you’re on a tight (student) budget and, more importantly, if you know where to go. The idea behind aperitivo is that you pay slightly more for a drink than you normally would, and in return you’ll get free access to a delicious Italian buffet.
Beware, some bars will only serve you some light snacks instead of a tantalizing buffet. Be prepared, and check out their aperitivo selection before you order your drink.
As you might have gathered by now, I have taken one for the team and tried a disturbingly large amount of the aperitivo bars in Rome. The best ones, my absolute favourites which I kept going back to while living in Rome, have made it to this list. Are you headed to Venize instead of Rome, perhaps? No worries, mate, I have a list of aperitivo bars in Venezia as well. You can thank me later, babes.
Freni e Frizioni, Trastevere
Believe it or not, but Frenzi e Frizone, meaning ‘Brakes and Clutches’, was actually the first aperitivo bar I ever went to. On a cold February day way back in 2012, I stumbled over the treshold for the very first time, nervously attending an aperitivo arranged by my course. Not only did I meet my future best friends here, but I was also introduced to the art that is aperitivo-ing. Frenzi e Frizone is an old mechanic’s shop (hence the name), and it’s rusty, cute and with a great atmosphere.
The bar is located in Trastevere, only a wee walk away from Piazza Trilussa and Ponte Sisto.
But how about the prices? Well, even by Roman standards, I must admit that FF is not exactly affordable. The last time I went, april 2017, I am pretty sure that I lashed out with €9 for a cocktail. The good thing, however, is that their food buffet is pretty impressive! They offer lots of food, mostly Vegetarian and all of it pretty damn good.
Grazia e Graziela, Trastevere
During my final year, I lived 2 minutes away from Grazia e Graziela. My flatmate and I would meet up here for aperol spritz after lectures almost every single day, and I am a wee bit embarrassed to admit that I probably had most of my meals here, too.
Despite being in the middle of Trastevere’s tourist hub, Grazia e Graziela still offers a quaint and calm atmosphere. Their drinks are delicious and affordable, and if the waitor takes a liking to you – well, then you might get some free limoncello before the night is over. They do not offer a huge buffet as an aperitivo, instead you will be served some foccacia and/or other nibbles with your drink.
It’s cozy and absolutely worth a visit.
Mimi e Coco, Centro Storico
Mimi e Coco is a super cute, tiny bar located in the heart of Rome’s Centro Storico.
Just as with Grazia e Graziela, this bar does not offer a massive aperitivo buffet. Rather, they serve some light nibbles with your world-class aperol spritz or delicious house red. The bar is located on a busy pedestrian street, so here you can people watch and gossip until closing time. It’s a marvellous place, and somewhere I always take people who visit Rome for the first time.
Bonus point: If you fancy something more filling than light nibbles, I urge you to try their Melanzane. This dish is an Italian classic and I am willing to bet that it will change your life to the better. Much can be said about this dish, but in short: it’s a small lasagne-looking dish made out of sliced eggplant, layered with cheese and tomato sauce. Then baked and topped with even more cheese. I always order this at Mimi e Coco, and I have zero plans of stopping.
The First Luxury Art Hotel, Near Piazza del Popolo
First things first: If you think the prices at Freni e Frizione are steep, this place is going to blow your socks off. As the name most certainly reveals, this is a boutique luxury hotel located near Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna (for those of you who are not too knowledgeable when it comes to areas in Rome, this where you can find some of the most expensive hotels and shopping streets in the Italian capital). Besides being filled with impressive art works, the hotel can also offer you an absolutely stunning rooftop bar.
If luxury, breathtaking views and expensive cocktails are your jam, then this place will certainly wow you. As one of my fellow students exclaimed during a cheeky visit “this is the kind of place where Hollywood stars get engaged before sailing into the sunset on their very own yacht”. It’s been 2 years now, but I see what she means.
The drinks will sett you back a whopping €18-20, but at least you will get some fancy nibbles with it.
Doppio Zero, Ostiense
Not everyone can splurge out at The First Luxury Art Hotel every night, but luckily there are lots of budget-friendly options with generous food buffets in Rome. Doppio Zero is located in Ostiense, and while it’s admittingly not a super central location, the bar makes up for it with an absolutely marvellous food buffet.
For your fancy cocktail or glass of house red, you gain free access to a buffet filled with pastas, pizzas and lots of amazing salads and bread. If you are hoping to turn your aperitivo into a meal in itself, then this is definitely the place to be.
Bar del Fico, Centro Storico
You didn’t think I was going to ignore Bar del Fico, did you?
For those of you who are not familiar with the Roman bar scene, it might be helpful to know that Bar del Fico is somewhat of a Roman institution. During the day, you can enjoy an aperol spritz in the piazza while people watching/playing boardgames with the locals. During the evenings, they wip out a delightful aperitivo and a hipster-ish atmosphere. Beware, however, that Bar del Fico is super busy, so you might want to get her early if you want to try some of that delicious food.
It’s also worth mentioning that Bar del Fico runs an absolutely amazing restaurant literally next door to the bar. If you want a proper meal rather than an aperitivo, you should spend your evening at Restaurant del Fico (order the Saltimbocca. You will not regret it.).