L’acqua minerale [mineral water] is usually bottled, but to most Italians it means a little more than just bottled water. Italy has the highest per-capita rate of consuming bottled water in Europe (about 185 liters per person per year), and the 300+ brands of l’acqua minerale in the Italian market bring in sales of 2.25 billion a year. Whether frizzante / gassata [both adjectives mean fizzy] or liscia / naturale [both words mean still when referring to acqua minerale], it’s available at every ristorante, pizzeria, and alimentari [grocery store].
So what makes l’acqua minerale so appealing to Italians?
– l’acqua minerale contains elements people believe are beneficial to their health, treat specific medical conditions, or help athletes recover. I sali minerali [mineral salts], gli oligominerali [trace minerals], calcium and magnesium are just some of these elements, duly measured and reported on every package of l’acqua minerale.
– l’acqua minerale is guaranteed to come directly from a specific underground source, and is either monitored by state agencies and/or legally required to undergo periodic testing by the company that sells it. It is not, therefore, distilled or purified water, and there’s little chance of someone cheating by selling bottles of treated tap water in the guise of l’acqua minerale.
– l’acqua del rubinetto [tap water] has a negative image. Where does it come from? How was it treated? What kind of pipes did it flow through to get to the tap? How can I be sure it’s not contaminated? These are just some of the questions people raise when asked what could possibly be wrong with free water.
Critics of l’industria dell’acqua minerale [mineral water industry] often cite the large amount of plastic needed to bottle l’acqua minerale, plastic that is not always recycled or reused after the product is consumed. But despite the environmental concerns, l’industria dell’acqua minerale continues to produce and expand, particularly to foreign markets, its business of bottling water.
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