The Italian Almanac
Italian News - March 7
Italy's love for mineral water is overflowing, says a new book that seeks to guide consumers around the maze of spring-water products on the national market. Italians are drinking more mineral water than ever and demand is growing, according to Acque Minerali e di Sorgente Italia Annuario 2005/2006 (Spring and Mineral Waters Italy 2005/2006) that claims the average Italian guzzles 178 litres of mineral water a year, which works out at half a litre a day.
The Bel Paese is also Europe's biggest producer of mineral water, accounting for 28% of European Union output. Some 11 billion litres of the stuff are bottled every 12 months - compared to six billion back in 1990 - by 150 companies marketing 252 different brands. Experts say Italy's variety of geographic and geological features enables it to produce an enviable range of waters with different flavours, aromas and healthy properties. Italy hosts over 700 natural springs, 265 of which are used to produce bottled water.
In recent years there has been a flurry of publications attesting to the healthy qualities of famous spas such as Fiuggi, Chianciano and Salsomaggiore, whose medicinal qualities have been known since ancient times. A national water-tasters' association has even been set up with similar standards to those used for recognised wine-tasting bodies. Some Italian restaurants go as far as offering diners a 'mineral water list' along with the traditional wine list.
Italy's mineral water producers employ around 7,500 people and some 32,500 more work in the related distribution, machinery and packaging businesses.