Walk into any Italian restaurant or home and almost immediately, you will be faced with the question: what kind of water do you want to drink? As if it weren’t bad enough that you had to decide what to eat – a Sophie’s Choice situation in a land renowned for its glorious cuisine – you must also make an informed decision on… water? Come again? Isn’t water just… water? And why should you have to ask for it; shouldn’t it just be there, waiting for you on the table, or poured fresh into your glass by a waiter?
Aqua – Some rights reserved by Conanil
You’d think that something as simple as water wouldn’t need a culture lesson. You’d be wrong. How do you order drinking water in Italy? Read on.
In Italy, drinking water comes in three varieties:
- Liscia or Naturale (still)
- Frizzante (sparkling)
- Leggermente Frizzante (mildly fizzy… yes, there is such a thing)
It is offered at a home (usually along with coffee) or at the start of a restaurant meal. At an eating establishment, drinking water will not be free and you may have to specify small, medium, or large (recommended if you are eating by yourself, as you may be brought a large bottle of water with a similarly large price). If you would prefer free water, you must specify tap water. No worries: tap water in Italy is considered safe to drink, although acqua frizzante (sparkling water) is, perhaps, one of the world’s most delightful beverages and comes highly recommended. Refreshing and soothing all at once; effortlessly sophisticated.
Naturale – Some rights reserved by new-york-city
Liscia is pronounced LEE-sha. Frizzante is pronounced free-ZZAN-teh. Acqua is the Italian word for water, and like almost all Italian nouns, it precedes the adjective. It is rare to be offered water that is leggermente frizzante in restaurants, but you may encounter this at roadside stands or in cafes. Whichever type of water you choose, however, it will not be served with ice. Traditional wisdom states that drinking iced beverages leads to sickness; when my Roman great-grandmother visited the United States and found ice in her water glass, she complained: “Are they trying to kill me?”
If you would like sparkling water, say: Acqua frizzante, per favore (per fah-VOR-eh).
If you would like still water, say: Acqua liscia, per favore.
If you would like tap water, say: Acqua del rubinetto (roo-bee-NEHT-to), per favore.
If you would like to ask for a small bottle, say: Piccola (PEE-ko-lah).
If you would like to ask for a medium bottle, say: Media (MEH-dee-ah).
If you would like to ask for a large bottle, say: Grande (GRAN-deh).
If you would like another bottle of water, say: Un’altra bottiglia (bo-TEEL-ya) d’acqua, per favore.
One more thing:
If you would like to ask for ice, say: Al ghiaccio (gya-CHO).
But don’t say I didn’t warn you.