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Travel Tips: Avoiding Expensive Bottled Water in Italy. How to Get Tap Water for Free

A vedovella in Milan, photo credits Yorick39 under c.c. 3.0 licence
A vedovella in Milan, photo credits Yorick39 under c.c. 3.0 licence

As also National Geographic writes, for every six water bottles we use, only one makes it to the recycling bin. If you are traveling in Italy you will find that – especially in the North – waiters and shops charge you for asking water, no matter if it’s a glass or a liter. Sometimes you ask for a glass of water and it comes with a plastic bottle on the side. Again, while you walk through the cities’ streets and you happen to be thirsty, buying a bottle of water in a shop or bar can cost you up to 3 euro for half a liter, depending on the area. This is simply because many Italians are not accustomed to using tap water, they prefer bottled water, even if it is bad for the environment.

Fist Tip: Expressly Ask for Tap Water

If you want tap water, you should specify it to the waiting staff of the restaurant or bar, asking for a glass of “acqua di rubinetto”.

Second Tip: Look for a Street Fontanella

If you are wandering around, you should know that unless you find a sign saying ‘acqua non potabile’ little drinking fountains like the one in the picture are designed to provide an incessant stream of fresh water to people in the street. Local municipalites are in charge of verifying that the service works and water respect quality standard.
A curiosity: Milan’s drinking fountains are more than 500 and called by locals “vedovelle” (young widows) because they never stop “crying”. Their design dates back to the early 1930s and the oldest one is in Piazza Scala (map of Milan’s vedovelle).
You will find in this useful Italian website the maps of fontanelle scattered around Rome, Turin, Trieste, Genoa and other Italian cities.