Frizzante or Flat….
After a morning of sightseeing and hiking the Roman hills, or the Spanish Steps, maneuvering the cobble stones, and running to catch the Metro, you may be ready for a break. Rome is a city of fountains and aqueducts. Each piazza boasts its own fountain. If you listen carefully, you can hear the peaceful rush of the water when you approach the square. Each is more beautiful than the next and they are still in use today. Locals and tourists alike use them for drinking. While the aqueducts are all still in working order throughout the city, (a definite nod to the ingenuity of the ancient Romans,) you may want a drink, from a glass, seated in a chair.
If you ever find yourself in an Italian cafe, they will ask you, “frizzante or flat?” They are not referring to the state of your hair…and let me tell you, in La Citta Eterna, your locks will revert to whatever state you spent the morning fighting….frizzy or flat. It’s the heat. (For the record….I’m a frizz. A big one.)
Ah yes, the heat. A drink of water would be nice. So they ask frizzante or flat…sometimes they say “still.” It is your preference of bottled water. In the United States, it is expected to have a glass of ice water served almost immediately. (Unless you are in the South, and then it’s delicious sweet tea.) Not so in Italy. Bread baskets and glasses of water are not automatically placed on the table.
“Coperto” is the word that kind of, sort of, covers this umbrella of services. The use of the table, the silverware, the napkins, as well as the charge for bread can be included. It’s a little intimidating when they ask if you are not quite sure of yourself. It starts with the water. None of it is free, like ice water would be in a restaurant in the US.
When you are in Italy, you have choices to make. Frizzante is bubbly sparkling water. It may or may not be a mineral water. Much like a club soda or a seltzer, this water has a little punch to it. Some, may be bottled from local springs. Flat water is still. ”No gas,” your “camerieri” may say in an effort for you to understand. The water will be presented to you in a ritual similar to bringing wine to the table. They will open it for you and pour the first glass for everyone. I hate to tell you this, but….the glasses will be small, it won’t have any ice….and it won’t be that cold.
Italians are very concerned about their (and your) digestive health. It is considered bad for the digestion to assault your 98.7 degree body with freezing cold water. Their idea of chilled and our idea is about as wide as the ocean between us. Much in the way they don’t have cappuccino after dinner because the milk is bad to mix, especially if you have consumed vinegar, (sours the stomach with food in it), they are also worried about Too Cold Water. On the other end of the spectrum, they don’t want you to eat anything too hot. Soup especially is served cooler than we are used to here in the States. Moderation in temperature is important. They want you to enjoy your meal as it was meant to be, so like Goldilocks, not too hot and not too cold. Don’t even get my husband started on the air conditioning…
Of course, they are accommodating and also want you to enjoy their restaurant, so if you ask for ice, they will bring you…an ice cube. Usually, on a plate.
It’s for your own good, don’t you know?
They are concerned for your health. The only thing worse that you could do than ask for ice is to ask to drink water FROM THE SINK. Oh. Dear. These are the same people that will drink from a lion’s face that is centuries old, but they won’t drink l’aqua from the tap. Remember, when in Rome…..