It’s not by chance that the city became defined as “Milano da bere” (drinking Milan), due to its vibrant culture and party atmosphere, particularly in the 1980s.
Fortunately for us, it didn’t take long for the aperitivo to make its way to Australian shores, as many young Italians travelled here with a working holiday visa in their pockets.
For some years now, at least in Melbourne, the classic “happy hour” has become rebaptised as “l’aperitivo”, where people come together to socialise over a drink and some tasty snacks.
The aperitivo in this sense was born during the 20th century, becoming a trendy phenomenon in the 1960s.
In saying that, the aperitivo in broader terms dates back to as early as the 5th century BC.
Since ancient times, many communities across the Belpaese have preceded dinner with an aromatic drink, usually alcoholic, with the purpose of whetting the appetite.
This function is also represented in the etymology of the word “aperitivo” which derives from the Latin “aprire”.
In more recent years, the term has been associated with famous Italian cocktails, such as the Aperol Spritz, Campari Spritz, Bellini and Negroni.
Certainly the most famous is the Spritz, or prosecco blended with Aperol or Campari and a splash of seltzer, and served with ice and a straw.
Another of the most renowned Italian aperitifs in the world is the Bellini, which was invented in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani of the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice.
Named after Cipriani’s favourite painter, Giovanni Bellini, it’s prepared with four parts Prosecco and two parts peach pulp.
Another favourite is the Negroni, which was conceived in Florence in 1919 by Count Camillo Negroni.
Over time, these drinks became served with classic pretzels, pickled vegetables, pizze and focacce, all free of charge.
In Italy, many young people unite in trendy locales and in the piazze after work or university to enjoy alcoholic cocktails accompanied by snacks that look like proper courses.
They talk about the day’s events and joke around for hours, and often dinner becomes substituted by the aperitivo.
Today in Australian bars and restaurants, it’s not hard to find a similar experience.
The phenomenon was introduced to our nation by Melbourne’s Michelangelo Osteria.
The Queen Street cafe is considered the first place to have brought the traditional Italian aperitivo to Australian diners.
Last Friday, the venue celebrated the seventh anniversary of its iconic aperitivo nights.
On the evening, around 250 people flocked to its doors for a drink, a bite to eat and a night of fun and laughter with friends, either at the bar or on one of the tables lining the street outside.
The tradition began with Rome native Alessio di Monaco, who moved to Melbourne in 2011.
“A few months after being here, I realised two things: the city was full of Italians and no one was offering the authentic Italian aperitivo,” Mr di Monaco said.
“I spoke with two of my friends from Rome, Matteo and Ilaria, who had recently opened Michelangelo Osteria.”
Having always had a passion for hospitality and organised similar events for over six years in Italy, Mr di Monaco used his skills to put on an aperitivo night in collaboration with his friends.
It was an immediate success, and the trio made it a fortnightly occasion.
Nowadays, Michelangelo’s popular themed aperitivo nights take place on a Friday night around once every month, sometimes more often on special occasions.
Mr di Monaco explains that the events are a great way for people to make new friends and catch up with old ones.
“I know lots of people who met at one of the nights and went on to become good friends, housemates, colleagues or even married couples,” he added.
“In a city like Melbourne it’s also an opportunity for Italian migrants to discuss jobs, visas and information.”
From Harry’s Bar in Venice to Michelangelo Osteria in our own city, the traditional aperitivo has taken the world by storm, thanks to passionate pioneers of this custom like Alessio di Monaco.