Is water more expensive than wine in Italy?

Nov 3, 2022

I know what you’re thinking- wine being less expensive than water sounds too good to be true.

You sit down at a picturesque European cafe and ask for the essential 3: water, wine, and coffee.

When they arrive, you have a shot of water (literally, a glass the size of a shot glass), an enormous glass of wine, and a smallish (by American standards) coffee.

Your bill is around 20 euro- which isn’t bad considering a glass of wine alone in Washington DC is typically 16-22 USD, plus tip.

The breakdown:

Water: 9 euro

Coffee: 5 euro

Wine: 6 euro

In Italy, the south of France, Monaco, and Spain, free tap water is not an option at most restaurants. Water at restaurants will usually be chilled and bottled and range from 6-10 euro for 1 liter. This may vary from region to region, but it’s what I encountered 99/100 times in these 4 countries. 

As a human camel who has an emotional support Hydroflask water bottle on me at all times, not having free water can really add up at that price. Here’s how you can avoid blowing your budget on water in Europe.

How to avoid paying for water at restaurants in Europe

1. Buy a case of water at a supermarket and keeping it in your room. I’ll be honest, this wasn’t ideal because of the many hotels I’ve stayed at in southern Europe, only 1 had a refrigerator. Also, I moved from city to city (and hotel to hotel) every few days- lugging around a case of water wasn’t practical and some went to waste. However, paying 5 USD for 24 bottles of water vs. 10 euro for 1 liter of water was still a no-brainer. 

2. Take advantage of the free 1-2 bottles a day that the hotel (sometimes) leaves in your room. Again, it’s not cold water, but it’s free and you can carry it with you during the day to potentially avoid buying it at one restaurant. Like buying a case of water, it’s not ideal in my opinion- I’m one of those people that doesn’t want to carry around more than what is absolutely necessary, but if you usually carry a good backpack around with you anyway it’s a good solution.

3. Drink wine instead. No, I’m not joking. When in Rome, do as the Romans do! When most people are drinking wine at nearly every meal, it became the drink I sipped on most often. Just remember to hydrate well when you’re getting up in the morning and when you get back to your hotel at night. (This is not medical advice* but it’s what I ended up doing!).

Interestingly, the exception to this lack of access to free water is Rome, which has 2,500 free public water fountains (with both still and sparkling cold water) scattered around the metropolitan area. It’s pure, clean spring water that comes directly from the mountains above the city, traveling down in the famous aqueducts that the ancient Romans built!

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