Can You Drink Tap Water in Italy

Yes, You Can Drink Tap Water in Italy, Here’s Why it’s Safe

Tap water is safe to drink in Italy because it must meet drinking water standards set forth by the European Union for all member states. Despite successfully meeting regulations a growing number of Italians drink bottled water at home and in restaurants.

Today, we’re tackling the question “Can you drink tap water in Italy” for three reasons. The first is because we know from experience as Americans living in Italy, that drinking tap water in Italy is safe. Secondly, because we also know factually why that is true. Lastly, because its a question we ask ourselves too whenever we travel outside of Europe. Thus, it’s a very common question for travelers all over the world.

Can You Drink Tap Water in Italy?

Plus we’re spilling the beans. There’s a reason why Italian restaurants only offer bottled water in Italy and it’s a bit sneaky. Also, we dig into a bit of history behind Italians’ preference for bottled water.

All of this is to help travelers decide for themselves if they want to drink tap or bottled water in Italy.

Why You Can Drink Tap Water in Italy

For over 30 years, most people in Italy and more broadly the European Union have enjoyed high-quality drinking water thanks to EU legislation on drinking water quality. The legislation stipulates water drinking standards are to “protect human health from the adverse effects of any contamination of water intended for human consumption by ensuring that it is wholesome and clean.”

In other words, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe oversees standards the European Union collectively must adhere to for water safety. These measures ensure you won’t be stranded in the bathroom by drinking tap water in Italy or anywhere else in Europe.

Where Water in Italy is Safe to Drink and Not

Tap water in Italy is indeed safe to drink. The same goes for water from public fountains. Outside of natural bodies of water, decorative fountains, or areas with signs that read “acqua non potabile” (non-potable) tap water in Italy is safe to drink.

Non-potable water basically means the water has not been treated to meet the drinking water standards set forth by the European Union for all Member states.

Tourists however can be forgiven for wondering if the water is safe to drink given the amount of bottled water consumed in Italy.

In 2021 the Statista Consumer Market Outlook ranked Italy as fifth in the world with a sales volume of 174 liters per capita of bottled water. As an American living in Italy, I wondered, if tap water is safe to drink, what’s with all the bottles?

7 Reasons Italians Prefer Bottled to Tap Water

After growing exceedingly aware of the cultural acceptance of drinking bottled water in Italy, I did a bit of research. Here are the top seven reasons Italians prefer to drink bottled water over tap water in no particular order.

  1. Historical phobias over water contamination
  2. Marketing campaigns promoting the health benefits of bottled water
  3. Taste
  4. The feeling of Luxury
  5. Habit and convenience
  6. Bottled water is relatively cheap in Italy
  7. Restaurants make money from bottled water
Italians Prefer Bottled Water to Tap Even Though its Safe to Drink
Italians Prefer Bottled Water to Tap in Italy

To give a bit more insight, the following video is from an Italian language teacher who shares a native Italian perspective on why Italians drink so much bottled water.

Why Do Italians Drink Bottled Water -  Italian Listening Practice [Video in Italian]

Ordering Tap Water in Italy

Despite tap water being safe to drink, it’s not offered in restaurants across Italy. Here, waiters often start the conversation with guests by asking “l’aqua naturale or frizzante?” meaning still or sparkling water. It’s more of an assumption. Which type of bottled water, rather than a question of desire to purchase bottled water.

There are a few recognized reasons why restaurants in Italy push bottled water. The first is regional variation in the taste of tap water across Italy.

“Visitors arriving in cities or coastal regions will no doubt find the taste of the water a lot less pleasant. Hence waiters’ concerned expressions, warnings, and insistance on bringing bottled water in many areas of the country. Even at the simplest cafe or motorway service station, if you ask for a glass of water (which is common, and should be free) with your coffee, they’ll pour it from a bottle and not the tap. Usually into a plastic cup.”


Secondly, bottled water is offered in restaurants in Italy because Italian hospitality means giving guests the best that is available. In Italy, since the cultural assumption is that bottled water is the best, they always offer it.

“The growing foodservice channel is a major driving factor for the sales value of bottled water, as foodservice occupies more than 60% of the market share, due to high product prices in this channel. Additionally, bottled water in Italian restaurants is associated with premiumization, and it is known to be five times costlier in foodservice outlets than in supermarkets.”

Mordor Intelligence

Lastly, and perhaps least openly discussed, bottled water is a money maker in Italy. In other words, restaurants have come to easily count on a bottle of water or two per table. Thus restaurants can easily make an additional three to six Euros per check.

  • Water in Italy Grocery Cost
  • Water in Italy Restaurants Bottled
  • Cliffside Restaurant Italy Customer Brandy Shearer

Final Thoughts on Water in Italy

Despite the fact that tap water is safe to drink in Italy, bottled water has become a cultural habit. Thankfully, at nearly 80% Italy has the highest percentage of overall waste recycling of any European nation. Therefore, tourists wishing to skip paying for bottled water at restaurants in Italy can simply ask for “acqua di rubinetto” or regular old tap water.

Why Trust Us About Water in Italy

There is a reason we are confident in the information we share about traveling in Italy. It is not just what we do for a living or who we are that counts. Our professional experience is what matters most.

We are Paolo and Brandy, co-owners of ALOR Italy and dual Italian American citizens.
Born and raised in Italy, Paolo received a degree in Business and Economics from the University of Torino and studied cinematography in Rome before becoming a professional photographer and published author.

Born in Iowa, Brandy received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communications from The Ohio State University before becoming an Executive Producer in New York City, working for brands like Food Network, Discovery, InStyle, and HBO.

Together, we’ve traveled extensively throughout Italy since 2011. We also have almost 100 years of combined experience eating pizza in Italy, but who’s counting?

We co-founded ALOR Consulting in 2013. Since then, we have worked in the hospitality, food, and beverage industry. Our clients have included Hilton Hotels, Provenance Hotels, and dozens of restaurants, spirits, and brewery clients.

2019 marked the beginning of our journey toward early retirement when we moved to Italy. Now, we travel to Italy’s popular destinations and off-the-beaten-path gems from our home base in the Italian Alps.

Our motto is Live Italian because the secret to la dolce vita is having an Italian lifestyle mindset. Once you experience a slower pace of life in Italy, you can connect to that feeling and live Italian anywhere in the world.

ALOR Italy is Two Introverts Guide to Italy. We share tips to help you avoid crowds and save money on your next trip to Italy. Subscribe via email for a taste of la Dolce Vita in your inbox.

More Helpful Articles About Traveling in Italy

If you’re about to travel to Italy for the first time, here are a few additional articles we think might help you feel prepared.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply


  1. Once I realized those water fountains were indeed water fountains meant for drinking, I always make sure to stop at one whenever I’m doing my running workout out on the streets!

    1. Same here! I saw a local woman in my Alps town come out of her house, fill her water bottle from one of our fountains and go back inside! I had a huh moment. Although no dogs shared the fountain that day! Thankfully. 😉

    1. I hear you! On a trip through Southern India, our tour company provided bottles of water for the guests. After nearly two weeks there for a family of four, the number of bottles we went through alone was horrifying! With the weather we had to hydrate but souvenir refillable water bottles advertising the tour company with a giant water bottle in the back of the van would have been for better for the environment.

      1. Wow! That’s so crazy! I admit though that on road trips, sometimes bottled water is useful, but I hate that BPA taste that it gets from leaving it in the car. Also, I do understand that in California, you should have a stash of them for earthquakes. I also understand some places genuinely do not have clean water, like Houston or LA and you need to buy water. I remember travelling to LA and my mother explicitly told me not to drink the tap water! Apart from that, I don’t see any other practical use for bottled water, so Nestle can go to hell!

        1. On a recent trip to one of Disney’s more expensive hotels, I filled a glass full of water, walked across the room to look out the window. I absently took a sip of water, and ran back across the room to spit it out, and gargle (it tasted so bad I spat it back into my glass as I ran across the room). I grew up in SoCal so I wasn’t expecting that.

          1. Hi Kris! You know it’s funny. In the US I struggle with the taste of tap water in Florida and California. Being Midwest born and raised it was hard to not notice the difference in coastal water. Oddly, a decade of living in NYC and the water there was great. We’ll except the one slum lord apartment I first rented with bad pipes and brown water 😂 True story. I moved!