Still or sparkling?
I don’t know about you, but on a really hot day, nothing but freezing cold sparkling water will cut it. There’s something about having the bubbles erupt violently in your mouth that really quenches thirst. It’s as good as a cold beer—better perhaps—but without the alcohol.
The north-south divide
The further south you go in Italy, the hotter it gets. Italy’s latitude produces surprising temperature difference even within a hundred and fifty kilometres or so. When visiting the south therefore, I really need sparkling water. Only there’s one problem. South of Tuscany, you can’t get it.
Leggermente or lievemente frizzante
Go into a supermarket in Venice, Florence, Milan, or Turin and the shelves are lined with bottles labelled frizzante. Go into the same shop in Rome, Bari, Reggio di Calabria, or Palermo and you’re more likely to find bottles labelled leggermente frizzante or lievemente frizzante. If you buy and open one of these bottles, you get the pschht but when you drink it, after some very polite bubbles, within a minute or so it’s flat.
Locally targetted products
Even the same brands produced targetted fizz. San Benedetto, for example sells dark blue bottles of frizzante water up north, but mostly green bottles of lievemente frizzante down south.
My Roman friends tell me I’m crazy. ‘I don’t know how you can drink that acqua frizzante. The bubbles hurt my mouth! Our lievemente frizzante is much better. And it’s natural.’
This second point is the reason for the divide. The south of Italy is very volcanic and is dotted with springs producing naturally carbonated water. The north of Italy is not and so the gas gets added. The two end producs are like chalk and cheese. The naturally carbonated water often tastes salty, due to the minerals, and usually quickly loses its fizz; the water with added gas tastes more like water and retains its fizz even after opening.
Evviva la differenza!
In a way, I guess it’s good that the water divide exists. Its shows that things are being sold locally without being transported up and down the peninsula. But from my northern point of view, when I’m trying to cope with the southern heat, a nice bottle of industrial strength fizz would be very welcome once in a while.