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Rome’s 10 Best Bars for a Classic Italian Aperitivo

© Ross Brinkerhoff / Fodor’s Travel

Italians and visitors alike love happy hour, known in Italy as l’aperitivo. After work, friends and colleagues often meet for a drink and a tapas-style snack before dinner. In Rome, the tradition is especially strong, and many cafés and bars include snacks in the price of a drink. The classic Roman aperitivo is a spritz, made of white wine or Prosecco, Campari or Aperol (bartenders often ask which you prefer), and sparkling water. If that's not your drink of choice, many bars serve a full cocktail menu, and you can find a glass of wine everywhere. Whatever you prefer, you’ll find it at one of these 10 Roman bars, which all serve an excellent aperitivo.

by Laura Itzkowitz

Courtesy of 'Gusto
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Hands down, 'Gusto serves the best aperitivo buffet in Rome. Every evening of the week, the wine bar sets out a full spread of small bites, including Sicilian-style arancini, mini-sandwiches, salads, little squares of pizza, and pizzette—savory phyllo dough pastries with a dab of tomato sauce. For 10€, chose one of the excellent cocktails and head to the unlimited buffet. 'Gusto has an extensive wine list as well, and the friendly bartenders will be happy to help you make a selection.

Insider Tip: If ‘Gusto’s wine bar is too crowded, head next door to the Formaggeria, which has a great selection of cheeses and small bites. ‘Gusto also serves an excellent buffet brunch on the weekends.

© Ross Brinkerhoff / Fodor’s Travel
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The Caffè della Pace is about as close as you can get to living in La Dolce Vita. Tucked away behind Piazza Navona, this popular spot is favored by Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Francis Ford Coppola, who gather there when they’re in Rome. It’s been around since the 1880s, and the mahogany interior, marble tables, sculpted nymphs, and antique cash register certainly enhance its Old World charm. In the warmer months, the terrace is packed, so don’t be surprised if there’s a wait. But it’s worth it for the drinks, the atmosphere, and the people-watching.

Insider Tip: If you’re in the mood for something sweet, order the Fragolino, a sparking Italian wine that tastes like strawberries.

Maciej Klamecki/Freni e Frizioni
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Trastevere, Rome’s hip, artsy neighborhood, is always buzzing, and Freni e Frizioni is no exception. In the warmer months, crowds spill out onto the terrace overlooking the Tiber and Piazza Trilussa. The bartenders here are expert mixologists—tell them what flavors you like and they’ll create a cocktail for you using fresh fruit and a combination of liquors. They also set up a great aperitivo buffet in the back, if you can navigate the people milling about.

Insider Tip: If you’re still hungry after aperitivo, there are plenty of great restaurants nearby, like Trattoria degli Amici, which serves traditional Roman cuisine and is dedicated to helping the mentally disabled.

Courtesy of Caffe Bohemien
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Perched on one of Monti’s quieter streets is the cozy Caffè Bohemien, sometimes known as Libreria. This little place is full of vintage furniture and books, and is a mainstay in the charming bohemian neighborhood near the Coliseum. The friendly owners will be happy to serve you some snacks along with your wine. The vibe here is relaxed and welcoming. Every now and then, they host book readings.

Insider Tip: The bar is closed on Wednesdays, but there are plenty of other great spots in Monti.

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Located on the Piazza di Pietra just steps away from the Pantheon, Salotto 42 is a modern, Swedish-inspired bar and lounge. The décor is carefully curated, down to the art magazines scattered around for guests to browse. Salotto means “living room” in Italian, and this spot is intended to make people feel at home. Grab a cocktail, fill up a plate with snacks, and find yourself a seat on one of the little sofas. If you stay long enough, the music will pick up as the vibe becomes more energized.

Insider Tip: If you want to fit in here, you might want to dress up: This trendy spot is owned by a Swedish model.

Courtesy of FLUID Cocktail & Wine Bar
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If you peer in the windows of Fluid when passing by, you might think people are sitting on giant blocks of ice, but that’s just part of the décor, which tends toward the ultra-modern. Fluid’s sleek interior goes well with its great cocktail selection and aperitivo buffet. It’s one of the few places in Rome that serves Brazilian food, like fried plantains.

Insider Tip: When the DJ starts spinning tunes, people like to party here.

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One of the best wine bars in Rome, L’Enoteca Antica purveys a superb wine selection and the bartenders will be happy to give you a recommendation. Locals and foreigners mingle at the half-moon bar and the atmosphere is very inviting. Bartenders will carve you a hunk of cheese right off a giant wheel of Parmeggiano, along with prosciutto and marinated artichokes, olives, and other veggies. The enoteca has tables with waiter service and a full menu in the back, but the best people-watching is at the bar or at one of the tables on the street.

Insider Tip: Try a glass of the Brunello di Montalcino—it’s the best.

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This rustic wine bar is perched on Via Panisperna, a steeply sloping cobblestone street in Monti, where ivy and twinkling lights mingle, creating a very romantic atmosphere. In the evening, friends and lovers flock to Ai Tre Scalini to share a liter of the house wine and antipasti. Inside, quotes by Dante and other Italian writers are painted on the yellow walls. This place fills up after dinner, with people spilling out onto the street, drinking and talking the night away.

Insider Tip: Check the chalkboard to see which wines are available. When in doubt, order the house wine.

Courtesy of Urbana 47
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Urbana 47 on Via Urbana looks like a restaurant you might stumble upon in Brooklyn. It’s an eclectic spot, with modern décor in an ancient space. The menu is eclectic too, with both Roman specialties and more exotic dishes (for Rome, anyway) like vegetable tempura, couscous with vegetables and curry sauce, and beef kabobs with BBQ sauce.

Insider Tip: Urbana 47 is great for foodies, and they have a tasty lunch and dinner menu, too. It’s also one of the few places in Rome where you can get a full American breakfast.

Courtesy of Canova Piazza del Popolo
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Along with Rosati, Bar Canova is one of two famous bars on Piazza del Popolo. Though both are well respected and are perfectly positioned for people-watching, Canova is the more down-to-earth of the two. It was Federico Fellini’s favorite bar—in fact, he kept an office in the back, for when he wanted to meet people privately. To this day, Canova displays his drawings and photographs with the stars of his movies in the hall. In addition to aperitivo, Canova serves coffee any time of day, plus sandwiches and pastries. The best part: Despite the location, Canova is very reasonably priced.

Insider Tip: If you’re coming to see the Fellini memorabilia, head around the corner afterward to see his apartment on Via Margutta.