Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Drinking the mayor’s water in Florence

Can you drink the tap water in Florence? Sure, but it doesn’t taste great (though it’s better now than it was when I got here a decade ago). However, Publiacqua and the city of Florence have launched a major campaign to “drink the mayor’s water”, i.e. tap water. And the Fontanelli ad Alta Qualità, or filtered water fountains, finally make this a viable alternative to bottled water.

For most Italians, tap water is “no good”; used to decades of hauling and drinking bottled water, often preferring frizzante (what’s that in English? fizzy water?), it’s hard to convince them to drink tap water. Italy is the third largest consumer of mineral water in the world. And Tuscany? the worst consumer (ie highest) in Italy.

But things are changing this year with the installation of these “fontanelli” at which you fill your own bottles of filtered water. It comes out cooler than from the tap (at 15 degrees), and it is delicious. From the mini purification plant to the tap there’s no distance for the water to travel and pick up things that make it less pure.

In 2009, 6 million litres of water were distributed from these fountains, saving families over a million euros in water, and avoiding 15.000 kilograms of plastic, or 1.5 million bottles, from being introduced into our delicate environment. (These are the numbers from Publiacqua for all the fontanelli, Florence, Pistoia, Bagno a Ripoli etc.; in Florence itself it’s 3.3 million liters of water in 2009 and 1.9 million in the first 6 months of 2010.)

We acquired a plastic crate and a dozen glass bottles which we fill weekly at our neighbourhood water fountain (in the photo: husband doing this duty). I have a brita filter and use tap water for tea and coffee, and I drink that water in a pinch, but for some reason it tends to give me headaches so I prefer to avoid it. My in-laws are also fans of the fonatello and have purchased a device that makes gassy water out of flat water

There’s a fountain about half a kilometer away from our house. It’s great to see people of all ages biking, walking, or driving up to it, often stopping to talk to each other about this great invention. It’s a strange throwback to the days of communal services like a washing basin or bread oven!

Where are the Fontanelli in Florence?

For now, in the city of Florence there are seven fountains, one of which (at the Anconella park) has been recently fitted to also distribute frizzante to the joy of many Italians. These are all in areas outside the ring roads, so it’s not useful to tourists but aimed, rightly, at residents. There is a nice map on the Publiacqua site that for some reason I’m having trouble embedding here, so click the photo below to see it in action on their website. (Please consider that I did not make this map!)

Plans for the future of drinking water in downtown Florence

The best news, though, is the plans for the future. In 2011, Publiacqua will be installing these fountains at hospitals and museums. (In a recent stint at Careggi hospital, in fact, I was given multiple bottles of water…) First target for downtown Florence is via Ricasoli outside the Accademia museum. And there will be an international contest to design one that will go beside Palazzo Vecchio behind the Biancone (Neptune fountain), assumedly to replace the current “nasone” style tap.

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • Gloria – Casina di Rosa

    I had never bought bottled water until I moved to Pisa. In Civitella, water comes from Fiora, on Monte Amiata and it is very soft (if you boil it, it doesn't leave the white stuff on the pots). In Pisa my kettle is like an eggshell!!

  • arttrav

    In sticciano we enjoy the Fiora too; sometimes I bring my bottles there to

    fill up! Also makes for a lovely soft hair-washing. Hard water in pisa,

    florence, and Rome indeed leave a mark, though the brita can help that.

  • the Gypsy

    Nice. Everyone is just so used to bottled water it's more habit than anything else.

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  • Emiko

    This is great news. The fact that Italy is the world's 3rd major consumer of bottled water is always mind boggling to me – it is just behind Mexico and Syria!! Insane. I've been trying for years to get my inlaws off bottled water – though I have to say the water at Fucecchio (between Pisa and Florence – hard water) is the worst! Everything and anything that touches water is encrusted in calcium, even if you have just freshly done the dishes! A little soak in vinegar will do wonders and make the look kettle brand new.

  • Rachel

    I was looking forward to filling up our bottles after reading about it here, but I went out today and couldn’t find the fountain! I looked for the one at Via Erbosa, 66 and it didn’t seem to be there. Is the Publiacqua map wrong or did I miss it?

  • arttrav

    Hi Rachel
    that’s a bummer!! It is entirely possible that their map is imprecise. I’d
    try asking around the neighbourhood, it might be off by 2 blocks. I fill up
    at via aretina and i see that the point on the map is about 2 blocks off.
    Albereta and Sodo points appear to be correct. I’m afraid i’ve never tried
    finding the more central ones. Let me know if you do find it so that future
    readers can locate that one.

  • Rachel

    Found it – it’s at Coop, a couple of blocks down from where it was shown on Google Maps. So easy to use.