This post is sponsored by San Pellegrino. Practice the Art of Fine Food, every time you can.

Italy has many pillars of success: legendary fashion houses, decades of art history, idyllic scenery, and of course, its unparalleled cuisine.

And yet, while any one of those pillars would easily justify jetting off to the country tomorrow, it’s something more than the sum of its parts that makes Italy completely irresistible. As anyone who has traveled there will tell you, there’s an Italian way of life that transcends the chaos and permeates the very air you breathe. It’s a knowing. It’s an appreciating. It’s a quest to get to the heart of life and enjoy as it is. La dolce vita.

La dolce vita is most readily observed in the way Italians treasure their food. To eat is more than to survive, it is to savor. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest ways those of us not dining in Italy can live like we are. Enter: the modern aperitivo. This growing Italian trend is similar to a happy hour, but with deeper purpose than a good drink deal. Since many Italians enjoy a later dinnertime than Americans, aperitivo is meant to stimulate the digestive system in between lunch and supper. It’s eating and drinking in order to get ready to eat and drink. What could be better suited for the holidays? 

An aperitivo is the perfect thing to host if you want minimal fuss but something with the la dolce vita flair. Gather some friends — maybe before that big holiday or New Year’s Eve party — pop the prosecco and take time to unwind in a spirit of conversation. Typically light, sparkling or bitter beverages are served over heavy wines and sugary cocktails, with a few savory bites to help wake the palate and ward off hunger. While a spread of meat and cheese is a given, we’ve detailed a few additional recipes below to get you started. (Hint: they can all be prepared in under an hour!)

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Thanks to the aperitivo you’ll be amazed at how simple living like an Italian can be, with or without the plane ticket. Just remember that the goal is to savor, not stress — and this time of year we can all certainly cin cin to that.

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Campari Soda
(Makes one drink)

2 oz. Campari
San Pellegrino Sparkling Water
Lime wedge
Orange or grapefruit juice (optional)

In a highball glass, pour 2 oz Campari over a few ice cubes. Fill with San Pellegrino sparkling water. Squeeze in a lime wedge and add it to the glass. If you prefer a sweeter drink, add in orange or grapefruit juice to taste.

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Fig + Prosciutto Bites

(Serves 6-8)

8 – 12 Fresh figs
4 oz. Sliced prosciutto

Wash figs and slice in half. Tear pieces of the prosciutto to layer over the figs and serve.

Artichoke Hearts with Anchovies + Capers
(Serves 6-8)

1 jar (13 oz.) Artichoke hearts
4 Anchovy fillets, minced
2 Tsp Capers, minced
1 Tsp Lemon juice
1 Tbl Parsley, minced

In a food processor combine anchovies, capers and lemon juice. Split the artichoke hearts open and scoop out a small portion of the center. Fill cavities with the blended mixture, top with chopped parsley and serve.

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Roasted Spicy Ceci (Chickpeas)
(Serves 6-8)

1 can Chickpeas
1 Tbl Olive oil
1/8 Tsp Cumin
1/8 Tsp Cayenne pepper
1/8 Tsp Paprika
1/8 Tsp Cane sugar
1/8 Tsp Sea salt
1/8 Tsp Garlic powder
1/8 Tsp Black pepper
1/8 Tsp Oregano
(In place of the spices, store bought taco seasoning works well, too.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drain the can of chickpeas, add to a medium sized bowl and coat with the olive oil. In separate bowl, mix together the spices and add to the chickpeas. Mix everything together well, then spread out over the baking sheet. Bake 30-40 minutes until brown and crispy.

What inspires you to live like an Italian?

Images via Morgan Ashley Photography

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