Last updated: 13 May 2019
Considering where to go for an aperitif around the Vatican? It’s certainly a thought that occurs to us a few times a week and if you’ve just spent three or four hours in the Vatican Museums, no doubt you too will be looking for a local watering hole. After living in this part of Rome for over ten years, my husband and I certainly have our favorites – after all this is our very favorite thing about life in Rome! If you’re planning a trip to Rome or simply dreaming of the Eternal City, you should definitely know how to make an Aperol Spritz – the most popular aperitif choice by locals and tourists alike. Rome’s mild climate means that you can sit outside most of the year, and nothing is more refreshing than a spritz. Aperol is the arguably the most popular variety, but plenty also choose Campari, the more bitter and perhaps bolder option. We often mix things up and use St Germain to make an Elderflower Spritz! Here is a simple recipe to make your own Aperol Spritz, so you’ll know when you get a good one (or not) in Rome! If you would like to perfect the art during your visit, I highly recommend joining one of Adventures with Sarah’s Rome tours which always begin with a lesson in making your own spritz. Sarah is a long-time Rick Steves guide with lots of valuable packing tips too, so be sure to follow her. Without further ado, here’s the recipe (direct from the experts at Aperol) which we have enjoyed perfecting over the years.
Preparation Time: 5 min (can be done faster in case of emergency)
ICE AND A SLICE OF ORANGE
3 PARTS OF PROSECCO (or other sparkling wine)
2 PARTS OF APEROL
1 SPLASH OF SODA
Start by adding ice into a beautiful glass (like this one) then pour in the Prosecco, the Aperol and add a splash of soda, top with a generous slice of orange. This serving avoids the Aperol settling at the bottom. Cheers!
APERITIVO INSIDE VATICAN WALLS
There’s not much that beats sitting in the historic Courtyard of Honor inside the Swiss Guard Barracks, watching the sun cast its last rays over the Church of St. Anne in the Vatican, listening to the church bells and enjoying a fabulous aperitivo. If you don’t manage to get invited to our backyard for a drink (we're very sociable), your only other option inside the Vatican is at the Vatican Museums in the Pinecone Courtyard where you can sip on a prosecco and enjoy the lush green surroundings and an amazing view of the dome of St. Peter’s. For most of the year the Caffetteria Le Carrozze closes at 5.30pm, so it’s more of a mid-afternoon drink to give you the energy (dare I say a buzz) to deals with the crowds and reach the prize - the Sistine Chapel! This all changes during the summer months, beginning in April, when the Museums and the Pinecone Courtyard outside bar are open on Friday nights. For me, this is the only way to enjoy the Vatican Museums. There are no crowds and there’s something so special about being inside a museum at night, especially this immense and dynamic museum. Tip: be sure to book via the Museums’ official website. An admission ticket is €16 and you have the option of adding the ‘Happy Hour’ to your shopping basket for another €15 per person, which allows you one drink of your choice and one visit to the generous buffet table. Make it count and that’s dinner done. Or you can simply pay for another round. But don’t forget there is still a long way to go to reach the Sistine Chapel, so leave yourself ample time to enjoy the Museums’ treasures.
APERITIVO WITH A VIEW
Once outside the Vatican's gates, you don't have to go far to wet your whistle. The teaser photo at the top of this post was taken on the panoramic terrace of the Residenza Paolo VI, where you feel like you are sitting on top of Bernini's columns. Paolo VI is the clear winner of best four-star hotel around the Vatican. Friends and family have been very satisfied staying in this Augustinian monastery-turned-hotel. Through them we discovered the terrace bar, which serves guests and external visitors every day from 4pm to midnight. After you’ve waded through the crowds inside the Basilica and Museums, you can study St. Peter’s dome and facade from up-close while relaxing with a drink and snacks. Did I mention the soft classical music? It truly feels like you’re up in the clouds!
ALL DAY CHIC
Truth be told, I have a love-hate relationship with La Zanzara Bistrot. Perfect for ladies' nights or date night, the cocktails and food here are always excellent, not to mention Bollinger bottles at €50. And I love the chic setting! It’s just that every time I go, the service is so hit or miss. It reminds me of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about the little girl:
“When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.”
When the service is good, we’re there weekly and even when it’s not, they lure me back in with the promise of a flute of champagne and two oysters for €15. It’s simply irresistible! So be warned - enjoy the dreamy Elderflower Spritzes and Bollinger at €10 a glass but ask to sit in Luca’s or Andrea’s sections to be sure you’re looked after in the manner to which you are accustomed! Arrive early because aperitivo hour is officially from 6:30-8:30pm. Advise your server that you're here for the aperitivo and expect delicious appetizers to continually arrive for as long as you are ordering drinks. You're welcome!
BEST ROMAN APERITIVO
If there is a line at La Zanzara and you’re too thirsty to wait (understandably), choose one of the other two wine bars that complete our local ‘Bermuda Triangle’. Il Sorpasso and Passaguai (literally a place to ease your troubles) are one street apart and have a common owner, so if you like one, I guarantee that you will like the other. They are both cosy yet casual bars, heavily frequented by locals who keep coming back for the extensive list of Italian wines and bubbles by the glass (at very reasonably prices) and platters of cured meats and cheeses which change every ten days - a Roman aperitivo at its best!