Europe and All That High Quality H20

Klean Kanteen in Corniglia, Italy (Cinque Terre)Other than my camera there’s just one thing that I bring with me nearly everywhere I go, my Klean Kanteen.

Like Vibram FiveFingers, I’m a big fan of Klean Kanteen and their BPA free (healthy), reusable water bottles. Buying and drinking bottled water is extremely wasteful, typically less clean than tap water, and a waste of money. (For an amazing, eye opening documentary on bottled water watch Tapped)

The issue I’ve run into in Europe though is that there’s no such thing as ordering tap water in restaurants.

The Water Makes It So European

On this trip I of course have my Klean Kanteen with me, so everywhere we stay I fill ‘er up in the sink and then have water with me for the majority of the day. Being on the road though we don’t have much of a choice but to eat out and obviously I can’t be whipping out my Klean Kanteen and drinking my own water at a restaurant so ordering something to drink is a necessity. I’m not going to choke down a meal without any fluids and I hope that you don’t either.

Typically when eating out at home or eating at home for that matter I’ll stick to a glass of water or maybe tea. I don’t drink much pop and basically don’t drink alcohol (I will but I typically don’t) so water’s exactly what I usually want.


In London at our first lunch Marla ordered water with her meal and I ordered a Coke because I was dead tired at 4pm and wanted the caffeine boost. The waitress asked if she wanted steel. Hmm? Steel? Huh? Oh still! Yes still water please. And then she asked if Marla wanted small or large. She opted for the large.

Then the waitress proceeded to bring out a sealed glass wine bottle with 1 liter of water and and inquisitive look. She asked Marla, as though it seemed odd, “Yes?” Marla agreed and we laughed about our first mistake.

Instead of a large glass of tap water, or even a single serving large bottle of water, she had ordered bottled water large enough for 3 people. It cost us about £7 and was a learning experience.

In an effort to avoid making the mistake of getting way too much water again, I found myself drinking mostly Orangina in Paris when my Klean Kanteen was empty or we were at a cafe. While it’s very tasty and may be made from real orange juice (not sure on that), water would still have sufficed.

On to Venice and a nice dinner on the Grand Canal. This time we went the wine route. We’re not big on alcohol, like I said, but we thought why not have some, we’re in Venice. After ordering the wine we were met with the apparently obligatory, question, whether or not we want water as well.

We went for it (to share this time) and I noticed that most other tables had done the exact same thing. This lead me to believe that ordering a big bottle of water with a meal was more commonplace in Italy than it was in London. Plus this time we didn’t get any confused look when it was brought out, although we were sharing this time.


So on to Milano and Marla wants water but this time it goes like this,

Waiter: “Gah?”
Me: “Hmm?”
Waiter: “Gah?”
Me: “Hmm? Uh just still please”

But then in La Spezia, the same question came up once again but then it clicked, Gas! They’re asking if we want still or sparkling, aka with CO2 gas in it. So gas or steel are the types of water in Italy. See we’re learning 😉

In La Spezia I think I finally figured out the way to properly work the drink system though. You order the house wine, which is very affordable, 6.5€ for a liter (remember we paid more than that for just water in London) and it comes out of the tap like beer.

But the one thing we didn’t realize until after is that you can order a partial (1/4 or 1/2) liter as well. This is by far the best deal and I think it’s what we’ll stick with in future meals. Maybe a 1/4 liter of wine and a bottle of water.

Sure I would prefer to avoid bottled water and just stick to the tap, but at least if we’re paying for it anyway now we’re spending just a couple dollars more to have wine as well. Plus it classes up the meal a bit, don’t ya think? Vino with dinner is Italy.

What’s your drink of choice, whether at home or abroad? Let us know in the comments.

2 responses to “Europe and All That High Quality H20”

  1. James Chartrand - Men with Pens Avatar

    Pfft, what’s my drink of choice, he asks. Well, I like a nice shiraz, but lacking that I’ll settle for a red cabarnet-sauvignon, though sometimes a chardonnay or a sauvignon blanc is nice.

    Oh wait, you mean BEFORE 5pm… Morning: coffee. Afternoon: water or juice. Mostly juice, because the tap water here isn’t very good.

    I worked at a bottled water company for 12 years – and thankfully, one of the best and one of the cleanest wasters available. Lab reports were run several times a day and there was nearly NOTHING in that water.


    When you’re in the water business, it’s your business to know about water. Also, a few years of studies in environmental science and you learn a great deal about where most water comes from: heed the warnings. Tis gross.

    Know what you’re drinking, know what the fine print on the labels means, and make a point to know MORE than they want you to know about where your water comes from. You might be very surprised… and look at your dirty drain water in a whole ‘nother light.

    1. Jeff Sarris Avatar

      Haha, I did have an idea on your drink of choice 🙂

      And ya the water industry is a crazy one. I already had an idea about it working for local government with one of the top rated water plants in the country, but Tapped is still quite an eye opener. Especially how big companies like Pepsi have strong armed small towns into giving up their water supply just so they can bottle it and sell it with a crazy markup. Just craziness. Well along with the fact that much of the bottled water doesn’t even match up to tap water in many areas.