Italians eat dinner late, usually sitting down to dine in Italy at around 8.00-9.00 pm.
Restaurants thus have their first seatings at around 7.30pm.
Our latest tip for travelling in Italy is: eat dinner later for a true Italian dining experience!
If you find somewhere that is willing to serve up a ‘traditional’ Italian meal outside of meal times, it is likely tailoring to the tourist market. That’s not to say they won’t have good food, they may very well have. It just means the locals will be dining later, and likely elsewhere.
So why do Italians have dinner so late?
Italians generally have a light breakfast, like a pastry and cappuccino. Lunch is thus an important meal when they stop work for a nice plate of pasta and/or a main meal. Italians often take a long lunch break, during which time shops and offices close even for a few hours. They then return to work until as late as 7.00 or 8.00 pm.
If you’ve been sightseeing around Italy all day, you’ll likely be hungry well before the restaurants open. We suggest ensuring you do as the locals do and have a good lunch to tide you over. You’ll also have no problems finding something delicious to snack on in between if you just can’t wait for dinner in Italy.
From around 7.00 pm, many local coffee shops and bars offer an Aperitivo, a pre-dinner drink customarily served with some light snacks.
In certain places, that may mean some nuts or crisps, a few tasty sandwiches or even something more substantial. It costs from 5-12 euro for an Aperitivo (including a drink). If you find somewhere with a full array of foods (also sometimes known as ‘Apericena’ – a cross between aperitivo and dinner, ‘cena’) this is sometimes even enough to do you for dinner.