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.