Heaving boards of bruschetta, hefty Aperol spritzes and helpings of Italian wine are on the menu at these atmospheric drinking dens in this Umbrian hilltop spot.
Less famous than Tuscany – thus quieter and more affordable – the naturally beautiful region of Umbria is fantastic for a road trip. Charming Orvieto should be high on your list of stops, for its spire-topped jumble of syrup-coloured buildings; its artisan shops selling ceramics, woodcraft and lace; and the heart-soaring views from its plunging city walls, looking out to thick forest and apple-green fields. Head out at aperitivo o’clock for a drink at one of these warmly welcoming bars.
With simple wooden tables strewn under an ancient stone bridge, hyper-modern gastrobar Febo still has a deliciously quaint setting. Even lovelier is its balcony level, home to climbing vines and just a couple of VIP tables. The hipster team infuse their own spirits with citrus and brew their own IPA, so you can be sure you’re drinking something original. Order boards of arancini, bruschetta and dishes of popcorn to go with them.
This lovely little wine shop is named after the owner’s grandmother, Vera, who ran one of the first delis on this hillside. Their vision is more swanky enoteca than workman’s sandwich shop: sparkling decanters and glassware are perched on sleek pine shelving, and thick serving boards bear slivers of Norcia ham and truffle bruschetta. Pop in for a taste of its perfectly temperate wine, before heading out to the countryside – the team will gladly prepare you a gourmet picnic box to take along.
Near Pozzo della Cava – the fascinating network of caves on the east side of town – this sweet streetside cafe faces a charming, cobbled alley of vine-clad houses and parked scooters. Loiter at makeshift barrel tables or perch on high, lime-green cushioned chairs to order wines by the glass – the team keep a stash of cured hams and local cheeses to nibble alongside them. Inside, there’s a basic cafe vibe, with more Umbrian wines and a cracking coffee machine.
If you want a proper cocktail – something fruity or featuring an unusual spirit, draped with a pretty garnish – this is the Orvieto spot for you. Under a neon sign on a well-trod cobbled street, it has a scattering of outdoor tables, and owners who take their spirits selection seriously. They stand ready to shake you up a tequila sunrise or rum punch, with a bowl of incredibly moreish crisps for good measure. Owner Anthony is a hit with tourists from all over the world, and occasionally gets his guitar out to strum a few Bowie tunes.
A century-old sweet shop and bakery, this cerulean-canopied institution turns into an aperitivo bar around 6pm each evening. Browse the brightly wrapped chocolate drops and tarts before settling in its leafy, flower-tickled patio for a glass of wine. Ramekins of bready nibbles are brought out with hefty Aperol spritzes, and plummy Umbrian red wines are drained alongside fruity tarts dusted with powdered sugar. Touristy, but super charming.
Record sleeves bearing the logos of Nirvana, Queen and the Rolling Stones hang over the counter at this low-key cafe, where outdoor tables attract locals for a negroni or glass of white in the early evening glow. Acoustic singer-songwriters and blues bands sometimes perform in the street outside after dark, as a mellow crowd sip unusual bottled beers and cocktails into the night. Sweets and coffee are also a speciality here.
Part of the ornate, gilded Teatro Mancinelli theatre, this lofty cafe has whipped-cream design flourishes and painted ceilings, under which you can enjoy a glass of premium wine, a liqueur and a haul of aperitivo snacks on cocktail sticks from the bar buffet. The mirror-backed bar and the gramophone balanced on the counter both nod to its theatrical setting, but you don’t need a ticket to drop in for drinks.
This romantic haunt, set under stone arches in the old centre, has a cluster of metallic tables out on the street and bold scarlet and gold design touches inside. You might be intrigued by the wooden piano motif on the building’s exterior: a nod to the jazz and blues tracks that flow through the air here at aperitivo hour, as patrons clink wines and share crisps and nuts. Sit out and watch the passeggiata, a very Italian tradition of parading through the street in the early evening.