Sunday, September 13, 2009

Beverages in Italy


All around Rome there are water fountains for drinking. The water pours from the sides of buildings, pillars, lions’ mouths, and falls into stone drains in the ancient cobblestones. The two in Piazza San Pietro (the Vatican) were busier, maybe because the sun was shining so hotly, but the water wasn’t as tasty there as the one we first encountered on Via della Conciliazione. At that one, a small boy protested in fear as his mother picked him up to drink directly from the lion’s mouth. According to Manuela, she told him, Come on! It’s just a puppet. The water was cool, fresh-tasting, and flowed smoothly. It might have also been my favorite because it was the first one I saw.
These water fountains are interesting because at no establishment can one be served simply water from the tap. Manu said she was always afraid to ask for tap water because to ask for tap water sends a strong message, having to do with authority and government and culture and environmentalism. One time on Via San Rocco in Bologna she did ask for tap water, and the bartender said it was against Italian law to serve it to customers. But he gave us two glasses of mineral water for free.
The signature drink of Venice is Spritz, a cocktail made with wine, Aperol (a bitter Italian liquer; you can substitute Campari), seltzer sometimes, and a slice of orange and an olive. The color of the drink is a deep neon orange. The salty green olive on the wooden skewer was the best part for me. We had two Spritzes in Venice, one in Gheto Vechio (a Jewish quarter) and the other in a piazza right across the Grand Canal from the train station, take a right and a left and a right, keep walking until you are in a big open piazza with a few trees near a sandwich shop whose owner is named Renato.
Espresso! Drunk from a tiny ceramic teacup and saucer while standing up. Manu puts sugar in hers so I did too, and it comes with tiny spoon for stirring. An expensive espresso will run you about 1,40 euro. I mostly had espresso—at various caff├ęs, on the train to Venice, with brioche, at Manu’s house—but had a cappuccino at the airport. Only whole milk produces such good foam. It really is a perfect mix of strong bitter dark sweet linger enveloping your mouth.