Why Tourists In Italy Should Avoid Going To Bars While Trying To Have A Wild Night Out

When traveling to Italy, many tourists might envision peaceful nighttime pleasures, such as a romantic dinner or the evening ritual la passeggiata, to soak in the country's charm. Yet, despite the abundance of saints and churches on every corner, anyone with a taste for the nightlife might consider the local bar as a prime venue for a wild night. But in Italy, this is a big mistake, where the "bar" is not an appropriate place for such escapades.

Italian bars, also simply called "bar," deviate significantly from the bars or nightclubs in other countries. In Italy, a bar is primarily a place for a quick coffee, a pastry, or an apertivo (pre-meal drink) rather than a venue for late-night partying. In Italy, the customs are simply different, with an unusual approach to alcohol starting from a young age — it's common for everyone at the table, including children, to enjoy a little wine with dinner. And yes, it's perfectly legal! The purpose is to familiarize the youth with responsible drinking habits and discourage future binge drinking.

Another reason to avoid visiting Italian bars to drink alcohol is because it can be surprisingly expensive, especially in tourist-heavy areas where prices for drinks are often inflated for foreigners. Moreover, some bars may charge a coperto (cover charge) just for sitting down, which can be an unexpected addition to your evening's expenses. Instead, this money can be better spent on more quintessential nightlife experiences, immersing yourself like a true Italian local.

Birrerias, enotecas, and discotecas

Tourists expecting pulsating music and large dance floors at a bar might find themselves disappointed. What you're likely looking for is an Italian pub, known as a birreria, or a craft brewery, which is called birrificio. This type of venue, inspired by the British pub, has become increasingly popular. At a birreria, you can enjoy an array of beverages, including beer, wine, and cocktails, accompanied by a diverse menu of Italian and Western dishes. Meanwhile, at a birrificio, you can try artisanal beers brewed in-house.

For those seeking a more refined venue, consider visiting an enoteca, which is essentially an Italian wine bar or wine library. Similar to an Italian pub but tailored for wine enthusiasts, enotecas are ideal for enjoying drinks and light appetizers in a relaxed setting. This contrasts with a birreria, where the excitement of football matches or other sports can create a rowdier atmosphere.

Typically, many of these establishments close between 12:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. However, most locals start the party closer to midnight and continue well into the wee hours. Indeed, a wild night doesn't have to end there — your next destination should be a discoteca, also known as a nightclub. Heading to a discoteca later in the night might be the ideal choice, especially if you've already had some vino (wine) or birra (beer). Just be sure to have your dancing shoes on — Italians love to dance. After all, they have folk dances galore, invented Italo disco, and were pioneers of electronic music.

Precautions and tips for Italian nightlife

But it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. It's crucial to approach nightlife with both enthusiasm and caution. Familiarize yourself with Italian regulations regarding alcohol consumption and public behavior. Some laws limit drinking hours and alcohol consumption in public areas — unaware tourists could face unpleasant encounters with law enforcement. Regulations are there to maintain public order and prevent drunken vandalism. While Italy is generally a safe destination, some areas, particularly in major cities like Rome and Naples, can be less safe at night. Bars (the alcoholic kind) and clubs can attract thieves and scammers targeting intoxicated tourists. If the unfortunate happens, yell, "Attenzione, pickpocket!" and seek help. 

Consider exploring other alternatives to traditional bar-hopping — Italy offers numerous activities that can make for a memorable night. You might attend a performance in an ancient amphitheater, like Verona Arena, participate in a wine-tasting event, or book a night cruise along the Italian coast. Moreover, spending your nights exclusively in bars and clubs could mean missing out on what Italy genuinely has to offer. The country is replete with cultural experiences that extend beyond the nightlife scene. Try a night tour of historical sites like the Colosseum (GetYourGuide), take evening strolls through Italy's many bustling piazzas, or book a delicious nighttime food tour in Florence with Walks of Italy. These activities offer safer and more authentic ways to enjoy Italy after dark, allowing you to connect more deeply with the local culture. Otherwise, party on — the Italian way.