There is a slight, imperceptible shift in the air. It is barely noticeable, and many of the Milanese in the Piazza Del Duomo around me continue with their lives. And yet, as if the city breathes a sigh of relief when the working day is over, Apero o’clock chimes.
Here in Milan, as in much of Italy, it is customary to stop for an aperitif (also known as an ‘Apero’) at around 5 o’clock. Traditionally, you would have an Aperol Spritz at your local bar which would be decked with plenty of dishes offering finger food that you can nibble on.
This is a light drink (3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol and 1 part soda water) and locals can be seen quaffing this orange drink as they gesticulate about life, the universe and everything.
I cross the piazza, with the cathedral on my right, heading to the throng of people who are funnelled into the dark caverns of the Vittorio Emmanuele II Galleria. Over there, right on the corner, is the Camparino bar which has been serving faithful regulars since 1867. (Technically, it was christened in 1917 but Mr Campari himself opened up his first shop in 1867, so who am I to quibble?)
This place is of note, not only because of its heritage and durability but because, according to legend, it is the place where the famous Negroni cocktail was invented. My task this evening is to prop up the bar and drink a few Negronis because, wherever it came from, this is as good an excuse as any other.
The shop occupies a small quadrant of a larger establishment. Packed with regulars and bemused tourists, I thread my way through the crowd and pay for my drinks up front, as is customary.
I negotiate a tight walk to the bar between a stranger’s backpack and a blonde carrying 3 drinks to her companions. I watch as the barman deftly measures out the vermouth, gin and Campari into an ice-filled glass. He flicks a slice of orange into it and silently deposits the concoction in front of me.
I chat with a few locals, arm resting on a free part of the bar, marking my territory out. Plates of various nibbles appear from time to time – bruschetta, bite-sized chunks of pizza, juicy and chunky green olives – and we scoff the lot, washed down with our favourite drinks.
I exit the Camparino a few hours later, tipsy but not drunk, sated but not full.
With a smile on my face, I brave the cooler air that has already driven many a tourist away and head into the night to my next destination.