status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
The Italian aperitivo is a veritable institution, and one that I have come to wholeheartedly approve of; although my waistline may not thank me for my adherence to such traditions.
If you care to drop by your local bar at any time from about 11h in the morning, you should be able to witness the breakfast paraphernalia of cappuccino, caffè latte, latte macchiato, brioche, focaccia and so on, being cleared away to make space for an alluring spread of calorific nibbles.
Patatine, arachide, funghi, olive, prosciutto, formaggio, crostini, crackers, salame (or in other words; crisps, peanuts, pickled mushrooms, olives, ham, cheese, croutons, cheesy biscuits, salami) amongst many other morsels, are spread out along the bar and brought to the tables in order to delight the tastebuds of those who file in for a tipple before plodding off home for lunch.
A small drink to wash down a mountain of snacks.
The drinks themselves can be quite a different matter, however, as many Italians are fans of a concept that I have never been able to come to terms with.
One that makes my stomach gyrate like a landed fish and my tastebuds retreat up my nasal passages every time I see an example of it being poured or consumed:
it is commonly known as The Drink With The Foul Bitter Taste.
- Exhibit number one: ick.
The non-alcoholic versions of this particular abomination; this crime against the senses, are the Crodino – an innocent-looking orange fizz, which lured me in one day and managed to rape my tongue with a single sip before I caught on and cast the pernicious bubbles down to their plughole-ulate doom.
And then there is the Sanbittèr, made marginally less evil only by dint of the warning contained within its name.
Revoltingness in a bottle.
Joining these are their alcoholic cousins (look away now if you consider yourself to be delicate of stomach, or at least make sure there is a sturdy bucket in the vicinity…) of which below are a few examples served in my local watering-hole:
Americano – campari, martini rosso, soda water.
Maison – bitter campari, white and red vermouth, gin.
Negroni – Campari, martini rosso, gin.
Bruttaçao – sparkling white wine with a splash of campari.
And many other similarly gut-churning – and almost certainly gut-rotting – combinations of some of the most gruesome booze ever to have been bottled.
Extremely Italian, but still yucky..
Another popular aperitivo, is the Aperol Spritz: made when the lightly alcoholic Italian mixer, Aperol, is criminally and inexplicably chucked in to ruin a perfectly good glass of sparkling white wine.
But luckily for me, and others like me, it is possible to get stuck into the free vittles without compromising one’s delicate palate, and yet whilst also continuing to support the Italian liquid-beverages industry.
We have Prosecco to pave the way for the parmegiano, Peroni to precede the prosciutto and a superb selection of Italian wines to accompany the rest of the moreish foodstuffs to their final resting place.
And for those who do not wish to pass the remaining hours of the afternoon in an alcohol-induced fug, why not try some Spuma? A sparkling soft drink that comes in nero or bianco and tastes almost nothing like anything else that has ever passed my lips.
- Although the white is perhaps vaguely elderflowery and the black has a slight dandelion and burdock tinge.
But don’t quote me on that.
- An… ummm… interesting alternative.
If by any chance that lunchtime aperitivo has left you hungering and thirsting for more, my advice would be to enjoy a long siesta before making sure you are back at the bar around 18h in time to begin the process all over again.
There will almost certainly be a certain somebody in situ who is very pleased to see you…
Got any spare crisps, mister?
This is Status Viatoris, who you needn’t think is overlooking tonic water or bitter lemon either for they are both the work of the devil, in Italy.