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Italy nightlife

La dolce vita is alive and well in Italy. Though big cities like Rome and Milan have their share of clubs, live music venues, and ethnic dives offering everything from reggae to salsa, the default nightlife option in Italy is an aperitivo or a glass of wine with friends. In general, the larger the city, the better the scene, though smaller places with large student populations—like Bologna or Perugia—can punch above their weight. There are slim pickings outside Italy's urban areas, though big seaside resorts like Rimini come alive with clubs, discos, and open-air concerts in the summer.

Aperitivo culture is especially popular in the north of Italy—particularly in Milan and Turin—with the peak of the action generally falling between seven and eight in the evening. Classic aperitivos include prosecco (dry sparkling white wine) or the Negroni, a cocktail that, in its purest, torinese form, is one-third gin, one-third Campari, and one-third Punt e Mes (elsewhere, sweet vermouth is substituted for this Piedmontese liqueur). But there are also regional variants, such as the Venetian spritz: white wine, Campari, and soda water, with a twist of orange. Aperitivos are generally served with free food, which can range from olives and nuts to full buffet spreads.

Dance clubs, jazz clubs, and some of the smaller live-music venues will often charge an entrance fee that includes one drink. Dress codes are rarely imposed, except in some of the swankiest hotel bars. Note that, as used by Italians, the word "bar" refers mostly to the daytime café; if it's open later and is oriented more toward alcohol than caffeine, it'll probably call itself a "wine bar" or (if beer's the thing) a "pub." The term "locale" (as in "locale di tendenza", or cutting-edge venue) covers evening bars, music venues, and dance clubs.

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Armani Privé, Milan

Although Giorgio's very own nightclub has lost some of the exclusive cachet it had when it opened in 2003, it's still worth a spin, particularly if you're keen...more

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Bar del Fico, Rome

At any time on a balmy evening you'll have your work cut out to beat the fashionistas competing for tables beneath the ancient fig tree that gives its name...more

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Bar della Pace, Rome

Dark wooden fittings and huge vases of flowers give the interior of this eternally trendy bar the feel of a welcoming private club, but the beautiful people who...more

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Caffé Miani (A.K.A. Zucca In Galleria), Milan

Though there are other bars (and even—the horror, the horror—a McDonald's) inside Milan's glorious Belle Époque shopping mall, the Galleria...more

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Cape Town, Milan

Looking for the buzz without the pose? This unpretentious bar midway between Porta Genova and Porta Ticinese is the answer. Frequented by creative types rather...more

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Cavalli Club

Trust extravagant Florentine fashion designer Roberto Cavalli to open a nightclub in a deconsecrated church. Asia Argento deejayed and the Tuscan beau monde...more

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Da Claudio, Milan

Landlocked Milan is famous for its fishmongers—and Da Claudio is widely considered to be the best in town. Recently, though, it has also become an...more

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Dolce Vita, Florence

The past five years have seen a steady increase in the number of trendy new bars in Florence, but Dolce Vita in the Oltrarno is one of the city's classic...more

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Fake, Rome

So '60s Space Age is this stunningly white club that you might not even notice that you're in a cavern dug into a heap of ancient amphora shards. But that's...more

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Freni e Frizioni, Rome

In a former mechanic's workshop on the river bank in Trastevere, "Brakes and Clutches" starts heating up soon after opening time (6 pm), when peckish locals...more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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