Italian Food Rules – No Ice Cubes in Beverages

Florentine Francesca and I are in a New York restaurant where “Hi! I’m Sam, your waiter” is assisting us to have the best lunch experience possible. This includes large glasses of iced water that arrive immediately on the table with a large basket of warm bread. Francesca immediately starts scooping out the cubes into the empty wine glass. “Hi! I’m Sam” arrives to take our order and notices her he half full glass of iceless water. He leaves and returns with the water pitcher, which he turns sideways so that it dispenses the maximum amount of ice and a lesser amount of water. Duty done, he grins, “Now, what sounds good to you ladies, today?”


Confession: I have more ice cube trays in my freezer in Florence than anyone else in town. When May rolls around, I put away the hot tea and declare ice tea season officially open. I go through two trays a day. For over ten years I have felt ice-deprived in the restaurants and at the family tables of Italy.

Italian Food Rule: No ice cubes in beverages.

Ice in Italy is to keep fresh fish fresh. Full stop.

The most common reason Florentines (including Francesca) give me for the rule is that icy cold liquids are bad for your digestion. They can even cause the dreaded congestione – an abdominal cramp – that can kill you. (Florentines worry a lot about digestion.)

The next frequently cited reason is a fear of the tap water used for making ice. Despite the fact that Italy has very safe tap water – not always the best tasting, but safe to drink in any form – the consumption of bottled water (at room temperature) in Italy is one of the highest in Europe.

Mayor Renzi has joined other mayors in Tuscany in trying to cut down on the glass and plastic garbage and energy costs of bottled water by offer free acqua del sindaco, the mayor’s water, at various water stations (with both fizzy and still water) around the city. (Check behind Neptune’s tush on the side of the Palazzo Vecchio.) Of course, Mayor Renzi is not promoting the use of free tap water for making ice because I am sure he agrees with the Italian Food Rule: No ice cubes in beverages.

No hotel in Italy will have an ice machine in the hall and few will bring ice to the room. This may be for the reasons stated above or because ice machine suck a lot of very expensive electricity and are breeding grounds of all sorts of molds, fungi, and bacteria – all, unfortunately, good and verifiable reasons to follow the Italian Food Rule: No ice cubes in beverages.

Italy is a land of simple drinks – wine, beer and water (frizzante or naturale) – all which are drunk just fine without ice. There is not a big cocktail tradition, but in a bow to the rest of the world you will frequently find three tiny cubes of ice floating in your Negroni, never four, of course.

When visiting Italy in July and August, try following the Italian Food Rule: No ice cubes in beverages. You may find that you can actually taste what you are drinking. You may also find that you will be forced to take a break from those sugary sodas that taste disgusting without ice and you will embrace the entire Mediterranean diet, even the beverages.

But don’t look at me for a good example of how to “live Italian” by following all of the Italian Food Rules. I have more ice cube trays in my freezer than anyone else in Florence.

Italian Food Rules by Ann Reavis is available now. You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

Italian Food Rules: The Book

Amazon. com (U.S.) eBook for Kindle & Kindle Apps

Amazon. com (U.S.) paperback (United Kingdom) (Italy) (Germany) (France)

Barnes & Noble (U.S.) eBook for Nook

10 thoughts on “Italian Food Rules – No Ice Cubes in Beverages

  1. You are absolutely out of your mind! I was provided one of your books to read when my husband and I visited friends in Florence. We actually thought it was a joke. Then on our last night in town we flipped through the book. A food fascist making sure that ugly Americans don’t embarrass an ex-Pat. Customs vary from country to country but to refer to the customs as RULES?!?! You are insane and if anyone thinks these “rules” must be followed they are just as insane!!

  2. Untrue. In Sicily, street vendors serve cups of lemon juice filled with freshly shaved ice on hot days. It’s wonderfully refreshing.

  3. Ice is an American tradition. We Americans tend to think too much pasta is unhealthy because it’s high calorie and WILL make you gain weight if you eat it all the time, yet when Italians visit or move here, they expect and will get it.

    I think they and more foreign cultures can do us paying American courtesies of just providing the ice for us, and I do not think our request for that is unreasonable at all. Americans as a rule love to go along with different national cultures because it’s fun to us. This means we tend to demand little.

    For those of us who need it, cubed ice is indispensable. Italy can either get with the program or see fewer of us and enjoy fewer of our tourist dollars.

    Bottom line: we indulge Italian traditions here in America, and they’re being rude.

  4. I also don’t like ice cubes in my beverages. It makes them runny. I sometimes ask fast food joints to leave it out. Greetings from the Netherlands

  5. I love ice cube–drink anything with ice cube–recently I came back from Florence. at first was very surprised when I asked ice cubes at a coffee bar to ad to my drink. the server guy looked at me like I am an alien but he still gave me some in a tiny cup. I asked him if I can have more and I will pay for that. the reply is just a cold “no”. could be he does not speak well my language. later I realized that no where in Florence serve drinks with ice in the restaurants(I don’t know about the street vendors)–as a health freak I do agree with Italian about lot of things in eating habit. they eat more healthy than us as other Europeans in the world–in the US I avoid cheese and dairy but I had no problem eating cheese all day long and everyday in Florence the straight 10 days vacation. another thing: groceries stores do not sell fresh milk in the plastic gallon like here in America.

  6. I also had a tough time finding ice in Italy. I like my cocktails and go out of my way to find a bar before dinner.

  7. I am wondering about ice cream in Italy, Italian ices & Gelato. I know Italians love their ice cream and ice is needed to make ice cream, gelato and Italian ices. I assume Italy has enough electricity for this purpose.

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