In 1980, the average Italian drank 50 liters of water per year. Today that number has soared to 200, as bottled water has become more plentiful, affordable and more habitual—which is a good thing, right? Well, the shadow side of all that water consumption is the abundance of plastic bottles, not to mention those nasty carbon emissions from both production and delivery. So Tuscans, particularly Florentines, have decided to offer ultra-filtered water for free!
Wednesday morning, we refilled the gas can for the lawn mower. As it was placed back into the trunk of the car, Simone glanced inside and noted that we had 6 empty glass bottles in a handy carrier. “Ah, going to refill your water bottles?” he asked. Yes, in nearby Caldine was our answer—our regular spot. “There’s a better place not far from here. It’s a natural spring called, Acquinvogliolo. The water is always cool, fresh and delicious, like no other. It’s a little-known sorgente (spring), where water flows from deep within the cool Tuscan hills.” Buonissima! Always up for a little adventure, we focused carefully on his directions to the semi-secret location. We were off and running. At the tiny town of Olmo, we veered right onto via Acquinvogliolo. As we approached the end of the road, we turned to each other and shook our heads. We had failed to find the spring, even with Simone’s expert directions. We were baffled, so decided to save the search for another day.
Friday morning we sipped coffee and munched pastries at our favorite Caldine bar. In casual conversation we asked our friend, Tomasso, if he knew where the sorgente was. No. He did not, but immediately turned toward the kitchen and called to his colleague. Now, that fellow just happens to be a mailman in the neighborhood, and knows every little twist and turn of each street and country road. With great detail, he described our route. He disclosed that there is another entrance to via Acquinvogliolo that is easier to drive. Sure enough, our efforts were rewarded this time as we were soon in a delightfully remote spot, tucked between woods and a beautiful old olive grove. The spring is as it has been for nearly 2000 years. Evidently, the ancient Romans had used it as a refreshing stop along their well-worn route through the Italian countryside. A plaque mounted on the top stone, dates its origin back to the 1st century.
Since we had just refilled our bottles in Caldine, we needed at least one empty one to fill. So we traded giant gulps, guzzling an entire liter of the regular old “ultra-filtered water.” Once emptied, we refilled the bottle, but this time, with the nature-fresh, crystal clear acqua right out of the ground. With the nectar of the gods captured in our bottle, we headed for home where we would conduct our own”official” taste test. The water was indeed delicious, just as Simone had promised.
Since that day, we’ve mended our ways. No more processed, or even ultra-filtered water for these would-be Italians. Instead, you’ll find us relaxing under a shady tree, basking in the cool summer breeze, sipping fresh spring water—all the while serenaded with songs of chirping birds. Goodbye to lines at the local purified water station. Hello to the magic of nature’s healthful offering at the nearly-hidden watering hole. We’ve joined all those who frequent this idyllic spot, in a centuries-old Tuscan tradition.