Does your local tap water in Italy taste bad? Do you live in a building with old pipes? Do you distrust the local water provider?
Many people don’t trust the quality of the local tap water in Italy and therefore choose to drink bottled water instead. But is bottled water really healthier than tap water?
In this article we answer all your questions about Italian tap water, water filters for Italy, why so many people drink bottled water and the best solution if you want to save money, stay healthy and reduce plastic pollution.
And if you’re not interested in the details just jump straight to the summary.
Where does the tap water come from?
To a large extent Italians today still get water from the same sources as the Romans 2000 years ago. The primary source is rivers and springs (surface water) followed by groundwater. For example, Rome receives 97% of its drinking water from springs and 3% from wells. In the north fresh water is still available in abundance whereas the south and islands already face issues or are expected to face water shortages in the coming years. Despite this, water consumption in Italy is considerably higher than the average for Europe and much higher than for example Spain and Germany.
Generally the water sources have a high quality but issues reported in the past 10 years include:
- PFAS contamination from factories in the Veneto region that impacted hundreds of thousands of people
- The Lazio region (including Rome) with high level of natural arsenic and fluoride in the groundwater. This is removed by public water treatment plans but can be an issue for well water
- Pesticides and herbicides that have been found at twice the regulated levels in some parts of Italy
- Microplastics that have been found in tap water everywhere around the world including Italy although with significantly lower levels than bottled water
Thankfully these contaminants can all be reduced to a safe level with a high quality water filter. Read more about this below.
How is the tap water in Italy treated?
Italy has a modern infrastructure of water treatment plants that is generally compliant with the EU water directive. This applies in particular for water supplies to the large cities but tap water is tightly regulated everwhere.
The legal limits that water "for human consumption" in Italy must comply with are 64 microbiological parameters, chemical, physical and radiological in Legislative Decree 31/2001.
All the water quality reports supplied by the Italian water providers include a series of mandatory parameters but some also include more. In some cases they report average values whereas in other cases the min and max values for a period. This makes a comparison between the various water supplies almost impossible.
All tap water in Italy is chlorinated with the minimum required level being 0.2 mg / liter. Disinfection guarantees the absence of microbiological contamination during the transport of water in the distribution network. The concentration of chlorine varies by season and water network based on local needs. Therefore the taste of water varies widely throughout Italy and throughout the year. Typically higher levels of Chlorine (0.5 mg/l or more) combined with hard water makes the tap water taste bad.
Another more recent concern is bi-products from disinfection (chlorination) such as TTHMs that cause 5% of bladder cancer cases in Europe. 9 states in Italy had higher than recommended levels.
Here’s an example of a water report in Italy:
The mandatory information reported is fairly limited but you can rest assured that a lot more parameters including pathogens (bacteria and viruses), heavy metals, chlorine bi-products are also monitored. In this case no chlorine has been detected which could be a concern. Possibly the explanation is that ozon or chloramine is used instead.
Is Italian tap water safe to drink?
Yes, public tap water in Italy is safe to drink. In the exceptional cases it’s not safe to drink you will be told so by the local government or by the hotel.
The water quality is audited and reported for every local water authority to the Italian health
But safe doesn’t mean that it’s pure or tastes good. Potential include
- Chlorine taste
- Hard water that causes a lot of limescale
- Unregulated water content such as microplastics
- Contaminants from pipes in the building
A high quality water filter such as TAPP Water will solve all these issues.
Also read our specific tap water analysis for Milano and Rome.
Do you need a water filter in Italy?
In most of Italy you can drink the tap water as it is. However, if you are concerned about the taste, contaminants from the local pipes or don’t trust your local water provider then a water filter is a good and cheap solution. TAPP Water’s filters have been specifically designed and tested for Italian tap water for several years and adheres to all the local regulations. In addition to this the filters have been independently tested in Milan and Rome to ensure that all claims are correct.
Where can you buy TAPP Water filters in Italy?
For several years TAPP has been one of the most popular water filters in Italy for clean tasty tap water. As an acknowledgement TAPP 2 Twist is now also available through the top organic food store Negozio Leggero across the country.
You can of course also buy our products from this website or Amazon.
Tap water vs bottled water?
The quality of the tap water in Italy is among the best in Europe. Yet every day in Italy we use 30 million plastic and 7 million glass bottles, with the result that in one year 13.5 billions of bottles are consumed. 62% of families prefer bottled water, spending around 240 euros per year. Every Italian, on average, drinks 208 liters of bottled water a year compared to the average of 106 liters in Europe.
But bottled water is healthier right? The bottled water companies have done a great job marketing and selling this to consumers but there is no scientific evidence that this is true. In fact, tap water contains just as much minerals as bottled water.
Other water content has also proven to be about the same. The calculated mean nitrate intake from consuming public water supplies (16.1 mg/l) did not differ significantly from that of bottled water (15.2 mg/l) in Italy. Although the quality of public water supplies needs to be improved by eliminating those that do not comply with the current drinking water limits, at present it does not justify the high consumption of bottled water (at least not for nitrate contents).
So for the sake of the planet, your back (carrying heavy bottles) and your wallet stop consuming bottled water if you can. This applies to Italians as well as tourists. Get a reusable water bottle instead and fill it up.
Tap water in public places
If the local tap water is safe for households then water from fountains, restaurants and bars will also be safe to drink. Many waiters might look strangely at you if you ask for tap water but generally they are obliged to provide it for free if you ask.
- Generally tap water in Italy is of high quality and safe to drink
- There is no scientific evidence that bottled water is healthier than tap water
- If you distrust your local water provider or don’t like the taste then an affordable tap water filter such as TAPP Water will provide clean tasty tap water
- Bottled water is bad for the wallet and the environment so refuse it if you can
Please comment or send us your questions so we can add below.
Questions and answers about Italian tap water
Are there nitrates in Italian tap water?
A common concern is nitrates in tap water but based on the reports from the water companies in Italy were above the regulated level. Therefore Nitrates is a very minor risk in Italian tap water. Source: https://www.airc.it/cancro/informazioni-tumori/corretta-informazione/nitrati-acqua