It was an evening in Naples, I had come back to my hostel, 6 Small Rooms, after enjoying my first full day in Italy by exploring the backstreets while indulging in gelato, pizza and enough espresso that an officer would pat me down thinking I've been consuming something else all day.
I walked through the front entrance on the street, up the stairs and was greeted by Gerry, the friendly owner who knew more than a few things about the city, after all he'd been there for quite some time.
Given his position of knowledge, I asked him "Hey Gerry, anything interesting on tonight?" and he replied "Everyone's on the top floor chatting and having something to drink before deciding on what to do for the night." I said awesome and started making my way to the top floor before Gerry called out, "Hey Sah." I turned, "You should give Mario a visit before heading up." he said. And this is where my obsession started.
The hostel was situated right next to a local Piazza with a landmark fountain in the middle and graffiti on the surrounding walls, Piazza Monteoliveto, where youth would hang out, drink, talk, and just relax.
Just next to it was a stall, manned by what was truly a classic Italian gentleman, his name was Mario and he sold wine. Wine from a tap specifically. His shop was tiny, intimate and had bottles all along the side of the walls, with maybe 3 foot of bar area to serve you.
He would bottle the wine right in front of you, cork it and hand it to you with a cup if you needed one, and the best thing, a bottle costs you 2 euros. 2 euros. And the wine, wasn't bad wine. It wasn't a bottle of premium Brunello di Montalcino obviously, and if you're not a wine geek, who the hell cared. It was cheap, good, Italian wine - and I needed to know more.
Vino Sfuso | Finding the cheap wine
After scouring neighborhood, asking locals, hostel staff and of course the internet, I came across the Italian subculture of Vino Sfuso. Or "Bulk Wine."
Italy is littered with small wine shops that are BYO Bottle (can get one there too) and the youth thrive on this stuff. They were a little hard to find initially, hell Mario's shop isn't even registered as a place on Google Maps, and that's because these places aren't very overt - they don't rely on people discovering them on the internet. They're happy with locals coming in from the street and loading up to either drink back home or around a local piazza.
That being said, there's more than a few Vino Sfuso hot spots you can find just on Google maps for all your tap wine and budget travel desires. These places are god-sends when you're trying to travel on a dime through Italy when expensive places like Florence and Rome exist.
Here's a list for some hot spot cities, keep in mind that bringing your own bottle will make it cheaper.
A very pretty hot spot you undoubtedly already know, can get quite busy and touristy but that doesn't mean cheap wine options aren't around. The locals aren't going around buying gelato and leather jackets everyday - but the wine is a staple.
- I'Vinaio - Vino Sfuso (3 t0 6 euro per bottle)
- Bacco Nudo Di Francesco Cappellini (1.65 - 3.30 euro per bottle)
- Enoteca Alla Sosta Dei Papi (2.60 to 3.30 euro per liter)
- Fuor di Porta (2 to 4 euro per liter)
- Vigna Vittoria Srl (2.70 to 4.50 per liter)
All have a wide range, are very delicious, with very helpful owners, and undoubtedly will satisfy your wine needs.
Home to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and more than a few Vino Sfuso shops. Rome has a fair few piazzas and you'll regularly see people enjoying a wine while having a conversation or looking at the architecture.
- Enoteca Gusto Divino (2.2 euro per liter)
- Vini Sfusi di Qualità (~3 euro per liter)
- Bar San Calisto (Not vino sfuso, but cheap and great for a bar, 3 euro a glass)
Rome has more Vino Sfuso but they are mostly pop up stall style. So nothing very established. If you go past local markets and piazzas out of the city center in the evening - you'll be able to spot those nomadic little gems.
Venice is probably one of the places you'd be looking long and hard to find something cheap. Luckily there's a few around and the worst case is to buy a bottle from a grocery store which should come to be just as cheap if you buy the lower range.
- Danilo Agricola Borga Vini e Spumanti (2 to 3 euro per liter)
- Vino sfuso (3 euro per liter)
- Cantine del Vino già Schiavi (BYO bottle for a 3 euro refill)
And if you're looking for an evening session after being on the island part of Venice for the day, you'll find a lot more on the mainland across the bridge.
I hope that put some faith in you that an evening out can be cheap even in the most touristy places. Vino Sfuso will come to the rescue in the case of Italy. If you have any other local gems or suggestions, let me know @sahkilic on Instagram.
Enjoy your travels,