‘Free food?’ Queried the lone Antiopodean of no-one in particular, ‘You serious, free food?’ Queuing in my orderly British fashion waiting my turn to take my pick from this bountiful Italian spread, I was more than amused by this travellers exclamations – first time in Italy & obviously on a budget. What a great time of day to arrive in Florence. Ciao aperitivo! With one of the many clocks about to strike 6, it’s the perfect time to stop the sightseeing and head to a bar busily preparing to take tourists & locals alike from late afternoon to early evening. Swop your cappuccino for the fabulously coloured & perfectly refreshing Aperol Spritz, take your seat overlooking the bustling piazza and enjoy the snacks on offer brought for you to enjoy with your drink.
If you’re lucky to find yourself in a classy joint, the aperitivo buffet table will be groaning with a fine spread. You’ll be helping yourself to crostini topped with fresh tomatoes, truffle cream or chicken liver, freshly sliced salami, proscuitto e melone, bocconcini di mozzarella – mouth size bites of this wonderful cheese served with cherry tomatoes & basil. Mamma Mia – it doesn’t end there! Bowls of warm pasta and slices of fresh baked pizza will appear as if by magic and it never seems to run out. Aforementioned Aussie must have thought he’d struck gold. 2 or 3 beers later with a gut full of food, I watched him leave the bar having met some fellow countrymen, onwards to his next adventure with some still warm foccacia tucked safely away in his backpack! Hope his budget doesn’t run out too soon and he continues to enjoy aperitivo in the manner to which he has become accustomed as a birra piccola served with stale crisps and picked over peanuts just isn’t quite the same..