If you’re planning on visiting Rome, you’ll want to know if you can drink tap water in the historical city. The quality of water can vary greatly from city to city. Not doing your research before you decide to take a sip can have regrettable consequences.
Can you drink the tap water in Rome? You can safely drink tap water in Rome as continuous environmental testing shows that the water is safe for human consumption.
Safe drinking water is widely available throughout the city of Rome. There are thousands of public drinking fountains scattered throughout the city that offer clean tap water at no cost to the consumer. I did some research to find out how tap water is kept safe for consumption and how clean water can be accessed by the public.
The Quality of Tap Water in Rome
The public drinking water supply in Rome is managed by a company called Acea. Routine analyses of the drinking water quality are performed, as is noted in the 2018 Acea Sustainability Report.
The water is monitored continuously via instruments located along the water systems and also through daily sampling within the distribution network. In Lazio, the region of Italy where Rome is located, areas of volcanic origin has led to some drinkability concerns.
Legislation in Italy regulates the quality of water and maintains chemical benchmarks that the water must meet to be distributed to the public through the tap. In response to drinkability concerns in the Lazio region, Acea has introduced purification plants that remove unwanted substances.
Purification plants have been reported as removing unwanted substances to the extent that they fall well within governmental health standards. In total, 359,491 analytical tests were performed in the territory consisting of Rome and surrounding communities in 2018.
The drinking water company provides a table of data showing drinking water quality test results in Rome within the 2018 Acea Sustainability Report. The table is extensive and includes a large amount of data. In the interest of being succinct I will summarize these results.
Finding Water Quality Data for Rome
In the Acea report, 24 separate parameters regulated by the government are tracked and reported. Examples of some of the parameters tested include the concentration of lead, the concentration of arsenic, and the level of acidity.
Of the 24 regulated chemical parameters in the drinking water supply analyses, all 24 tested parameters met governmental benchmarks for drinking water quality in Rome. Many of the tested potential contaminants showed concentrations well below the maximum allowable level.
The water quality test results show that the drinking water in Rome is fit for human consumption without any red flags being raised for a single parameter.
Using the Report
The results of the continuous water quality testing can be viewed online here.
The link above will take you to the Acea Acqua website. The water quality analysis results for any one location can be viewed by:
- Typing a specific address or zip code into the search box above the map in the center of the page, or alternatively clicking on a spot of interest on the map
- Then a dialog box will pop up “Per maggiori informazioni: Clicca qui.”
Note: You will see the instructions in Italian, even if you translate the page to English.
- Clicking where it says “Clicca qui” will take you to the most recent test results for that location
All test results will be in Italian. However, the test results can still easily be interpreted by English speakers thanks to the structure of the table.
How to Read Rome’s Water Quality Report
- For each Parameter (Parametro), Acea has included the molecular formula or abbreviation in English. For instance, Magnesium is abbreviated Mg.
- The middle column of the table includes the government limits or ranges that each parameter must fall within to be considered safe for consumption.
- The far-right column shows the actual test result value.
- Italians use commas in place of decimal points when reporting the values.
In the link I have provided showing the results from a random location you will notice that the water quality test results fall well within the boundaries set by the government. This means that the water at this particular site is fit for human consumption.
The Source of Tap Water in Rome
Rome’s tap water supply comes from mostly springs and wells, as is shown in the sustainability report. In fact, as much as 97% of Rome’s tap water comes from springs and 3% from wells. There is a lake that is used as an alternative source of water in the event of an emergency, such as a prolonged drought.
Since most of the water is pulled from natural springs, Rome is noted in the sustainability report as one of the few metropolises in all the world to boast a public water supply system that it barely requires pre-treatment.
One of the principal sources of tap water in Rome is the Peschiera-Capore pipeline, which carries water from springs sharing the same name. This aqueduct is large enough to cover 80% of Rome’s water requirements.
Rome receives 60% of its tap water, specifically from the Peschiera springs. The springs are located within the beautiful Velino River valley.
The only treatment that water from the Peschiera and Capore springs requires is preventative chlorination.
Natural Water Treatment in Rome
Spring water is, in part, naturally treated by the earth itself. The Galvanina Springs is one of Italy’s oldest springs. Water has been collected from the springs since ancient times.
The natural filtration process that occurs here is as follows:
- Water first flows as rain and melting snow from mountains.
- The water then collects in pools underground.
- The water then takes a slow pass through layers of sandstone and clay, becoming naturally carbonated.
In this process of dripping through the layers of sandstone and clay, the water also picks up the minerals that it will still contain when it flows through the faucets in the city unless specific treatments are used to remove these minerals.
The waters of the Galvanina Springs drip through the layers of rocks for two years before emerging from the natural ecological filter consisting of tightly packed quartz sand covered by layers of clay. It is at this point that the water is ready to be bottled.
It is easy to see why it is special that Rome is able to supply so much of its tap water from springs such as these. The springs provide a natural filtration process that surface waters such as rivers and lakes can’t quite do.
It is important, though, to know how the water company is able to keep this water safe as it makes its way on a long journey from the springs where it is collected through the network of water infrastructure to Rome.
Management of Water Infrastructure
How is the network of infrastructure carrying the water to Rome managed? Keeping the network of pipes that carry the water to the city clean from sources of pollution is critical.
The network of pipes carrying the tap water to Rome is advanced and closely monitored.
Acea, the company responsible for managing the network of pipes, has reported installing satellites to watch the closely protected area of the Peschiera and Capore springs. The purpose of the satellite is to prevent activities leading to pollution from going unnoticed.
The remote management of water systems is becoming more popular in the area. In their 2018 Sustainability Report, Acea notes that they have added 167 small water purifiers to the grid of remote management systems.
So, you can see, the water infrastructure of Rome is constantly being monitored to ensure that tap water remains fit for consumption.
Free Public Drinking Fountains in Rome
Rome is famous for its water fountains and the purity of the water which flows from them. The water fountains are called nasoni, which means “big nose fountains.”
There several thousand of these fountains scattered throughout the metropolitan area. The fresh, cold water can be taken for free. There is even this special method of collecting the water from the fountain that involves closing off the hole of one spout to direct water upwards into a bottle.
Is it Safe to Drink from Roman Fountains?
If you are concerned about the quality of the water in the Nasoni fountains, you can rest easy. The water flowing from these fountains is the same water that is supplied to the residents of Rome. As mentioned earlier, the significant majority of this water comes from natural springs and is continuously monitored for contaminants.
The fountains stay clean and hygienic thanks to one helpful rule: It is illegal for someone to put their mouth directly on the pipe when drinking from it.
How do You Find the Free Public Drinking Fountains in Rome?
Are you parched and desperately in need of cool water? There’s an app for that. The I Nasoni di Roma (Water Finder in Rome) App is available for download on both the Apple App Store and on Google Play. The app has mapped out all of the public water fountains in the city.
Acea also provides machines with free purified water in areas of heavy foot traffic. These machines provide consumers with the option of obtaining either the normal potable water or carbonated sparkling water.
In 2015 Rome installed these special kiosks that dispense free water, both still and sparkling. The green kiosks are shaped like hexagonal newspapers.
They are reportedly described by the city as “nasone hi-tech,” also functioning as charging stations for electronics. The kiosks are called by the name Casa dell’Acqua or “house of water.”
What is the difference between still water and sparkling water?
Sparkling water is naturally carbonated mineral water, while still water is the normal potable water that can be found in the public fountains throughout the city. Among Italians, sparkling water is quite popular.
- Acea reports that in 2018, 57% of the total water dispensed through the kiosks was sparkling water. In other words, over half of the time people chose to drink sparkling water rather than normal tap water.
- In 2018 alone, 77 new kiosks were built throughout the province of Rome. The source of water in these kiosks is the same as the source of water for the city’s supply of tap water.
As is the case with the rest of the city’s tap water supply, the quality of the water is routinely monitored by local health authorities.
Decorative Roman Fountains Are Just Decorative
While you are in Rome taking in the history, you will notice some fountains that are not for drinking.
You can, however, drink from Bernini’s “Barcaccia” fountain, where a set of steps will take you to a spot where you can collect water from the fountain.
Factors that Can Degrade The Quality of Tap Water
There are conditions in which the quality and/or quantity of tap water in Rome can be deteriorated.
In 2017 Italy experienced a massive drought that threatened Rome’s public water supply. This article details how Nasoni fountains were shut off following a historically hot spring.
You may be concerned that times of extreme drought would lead Rome to turn to water sources of inferior quality. The drought scare of 2017 led Rome to explore options for bolstering its water security.
In their 2017 Sustainability Report, the water company (Acea) talked about possibility of recommissioning a water well field that had been cut off from the city of Rome in the 1980s due to contamination concerns. The company built a water treatment plant for these wells, which will be used during times of water scarcity.
The drought scare of 2017 led Rome to explore options for bolstering its water security. One such option was pulling water from the Tiber River when needed. A plant equipped with advanced water purifying technology was built.
Asking for Tap Water in Roman Restaurants
Italy consumes more bottled water than any of the other European nations. At least one resident says this has more to do with social norms than it has to do with concerns regarding tap water quality.
“When you go out to eat with friends or on a romantic date, you are supposed to be relaxed and not showing any concern for money or an unusual attitude toward water. Thus the consumption of bottled water has a lot to do with behavior dictated by social pressure.”
-Massimo Betello, a resident of Rome
Visitors say it is very rare to be served tap water in restaurants while in Rome. The bottle is typically made of glass and left behind when the meal has been finished.
One patron recalls an instance in which she requested tap water from a restaurant. The waiter insisted that water from the tap is not good. The patron’s companion, a lifelong resident of Rome, disagreed with the waiter’s sentiment towards tap water.
He argued that the environmental cost of bottling water and then transporting it for sale seemed a waste when they could enjoy Rome’s tap water. He makes a good point.
If you drink tap water from fountains, you can take as much as you want, whenever you want it. You can also use the same bottle every time, reducing the waste trail lefty by plastic bottles.
His claim is that restaurants won’t willingly serve tap water due to the profits they receive from selling bottled water. There is a very large industry for bottled water in Italy.
Italians can choose from as many as 270 different brands of bottled water.
Can you drink the tap water in Rome?
Tap water in Rome is certainly safe to drink, and public drinking fountains are widely available. However, if you are in a restaurant you will likely have no choice but to buy bottled water.
The preference for bottled water is not due to concerns over the quality of the tap water in Rome. Rather it is considered a social norm for Italians to drink bottled water when they are eating out.
Bottled water is also a booming industry in the region that offers consumers choices of mineral water, pure water, and fizzy water as will be described in more detail below.
Types of Bottled Water Available in Rome
If you find yourself in the middle of a situation in which the public water fountains are shut off as they were in 2017, you will be able to find sources of bottled water in Rome. You may also prefer bottled water if you are traveling with babies who need purified water for formula.
If you are buying bottled water in Rome, you will need to be aware of the fact that mineral water is very popular in Italy. If you specifically need purified water, you will need to familiarize yourself with the labels on water bottles sold in Italy, as is described here.
You will find bottles in the stores containing one of the following labels:
- Acqua Naturale (Still Water)
- Acqua Minerale (Still Water from springs with natural minerals)
- Acqua Frizzante(Fizzy Water)
If you are looking for purified water appropriate for babies, look for a picture of a baby on the bottle
Where to Buy Bottled Water in Rome
Now that you know what the labels on the bottles of water mean, you will want to know how to buy bottles of water in Rome.
Buying 1.5-liter bottles of water in supermarkets will cost you less money than buying them in mini-markets located near attractions, as is reported here.
Are the Minerals in Italian Water Good for You?
A recent study involved looking at the chemistry of the springs supplying water to the Peschiera-Capore aqueduct. The springs supplying a significant portion of Rome’s tap water were found to have a moderate concentration of minerals.
The waters of the spring are richest in the minerals Calcium and Magnesium. The results of the study are backed up by the 2018 Acea Sustainability Report, which also shows that Calcium and Magnesium concentrations are the highest as compared to other minerals in Rome’s tap water.
Magnesium plays a role in regulating blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and nerve function. Some studies show that magnesium may help prevent issues with high blood pressure. More details regarding the health benefits of minerals in water may be found here.
Calcium contributes to bone growth by aiding bone development and maintenance. Some studies even suggest that your body may able to absorb calcium from mineral water more effectively than it can from dairy products.
So not only is the tap water in Rome largely free from contaminants, but it also contains minerals that can contribute to better overall health.
Does the Water in Rome Taste Good?
We’ve done the research about water quality and determined that the tap water in Rome is perfectly safe to drink. And we now also know that the minerals are good for us. But – how does the water taste?
This is a popular subject matter on travel forums. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how many thousands of drinking fountains there are throughout the city and how well the water in Rome stacks up when it comes to chemical tests.
However, we have not yet gone over how the people who frequent Rome feel about the taste of the water.
On this travel forum, some who visited Rome suggest that the tap water in Rome tastes better than tap water in American cities. They note that the tap water doesn’t have a very strong chlorine taste. The water in American cities often comes from lakes and rivers where it must be heavily treated.
As alluded to earlier, the tap water in Rome requires less pre-treatment than that of most other cities in the world.
One frequent visitor to Italy said the following on their blog about the tap water in Italy:
“Because I spend a great deal of time in Rome, Italy many people ask me if it is safe to drink the tap water. Well, I have good news the water in Rome it is perfectly safe to drink and it tastes good too!”-Annemarie LeBlanc
One visitor to Italy remembers seeing the locals in one area driving up to a public fountain with dozens of containers of varying sizes to fill with water. If the locals swear by it even when offered seemingly countless brands of bottled water, it must be good.
I did come across one person in my research on the topic who preferred bottled water for taste reasons. The blogger says that although the tap water is potable and perfectly fine she prefers bottled water to tap water for two reasons:
- Bottled water comes from real mountain springs and tastes better because there is no chemical taste, presumed to be from chlorination.
- Tap water contains calcium, which can lead to a buildup of deposits in cooking ware such as tea kettle pots.
She also notes that, for whatever reason, very few households in Italy have installed the water softening systems that are so widely popular in the United States.
It seems that although Italians consider it a social norm to drink bottled water, this is not because the tap water in Rome tastes bad. While the minerals may take a bit to get used to, many visitors seem to quite enjoy the tap water in Rome.
The History of Tap Water in Rome
The reason why tap water is so widely available in Rome is a result of the engineering genius of the Ancient Romans.
Eleven aqueducts originally served the city. Although the city was built on the banks of the Tiber River, the river was not considered a suitable source of water because it was muddy. The aqueducts could carry fresh spring water from as far as 57 miles away.
Currently, measures are being taken to build the second section of pipeline from Peschiera Springs. The continued modernization of the network carrying Rome’s water supply could help the city continue to deliver water that is free from contaminants.
Taking It All In
Not only is the tap water in Rome fit for human consumption, but it can also be accessed for free, and some swear by its taste. And it’s no accident the tap water is drinkable.
The water in Rome is continuously monitored,and analyses show that the water passes all quality standards. The water from springs requires very little pre-treatment thanks to a natural filtration process.
The tap water is widely available in Rome via the Nasoni fountain – and the water flowing from such fountains is free. If you are taking in the sights of Rome, be sure to carry a refillable water bottle.
When in Rome
Should you stop in a café or restaurant, don’t hesitate to ask for tap water, at least not on account of water safety. You may choose to ask for bottled water, however, simply because that is a widespread social custom.