Acqua di Nepi

by Natalie Smargiassi

Have you ever heard of the Italian mineral water Acqua di Nepi? It comes from the town of Nepi in the Viterbo province of Rome. The source(sorgente) is from a vast, ancient aquifer below the surface of this area. “Acqua di Nepi” is naturally slightly fizzy(leggermente frizzante). Recently, I went on a group trek to see the remains of one of the Roman roads known as the Via Amerina. The Via Amerina was built by the Romans in 400 BC, and passed from Rome to the city of Amelia in Umbria. The road was used to move farm products from the Tiber River valley area down to the growing city of Rome. Our trekking group met the guide at a farm(agriturismo) just outside of Nepi and on the farm was a fountain which tapped directly into the ground. So, we could enjoy Acqua di Nepi straight from this fountain in the middle of a field.

The Acqua di Nepi has a refreshing, light mineral taste and is so crisp and perfectly hydrating, especially on a hot summer day in the Roman countryside. Michelin chefs prefer this water to serve with their food because of its refreshing effervescence which does not interfere with the taste of their dishes. There is nothing better than going to a restaurant in the local area and having the waiter(il cameriere) bring a glass bottle of Acqua di Nepi, a basket of bread made from the local Roman wheat and the olive oil from the region. The olive oil from this area has a unique buttery, spicy flavor from the mix of volcanic soil(suolo vulcanico) and sediments of the ancient river bed of the Tiber river.

The actual town(borgho) of Nepi is a wonderful site to see as well. There is a perfectly preserved section of a Roman aqueduct(acquedotto). You actually drive under its massive arches as you approach the town.

And you will find the Fortress Borghia(Forte dei Borgia). Lucrezia Borgia lived in this fortress in the early 1500s. Lucrezia was the daughter of the notorious Spanish pope, Alessandro Borgia. She had a reputation as a femme fatale who had a series of husband who died from various causes. But in reality she was most likely a victim of circumstance, being a female who was born into a powerful, corrupt family.

Nepi boasts excellent restaurants which use local ingredients(chilometri zero). Several of these restaurants are just outside of the fortress walls where you can enjoy the local menus that feature the famous porcini mushrooms with handmade tagliatelle pasta, delicious roasted meats, wines of Lazio, and of course, a bottle of Acqua di Nepi.

Natalie Smargiassi is the acting President of Italian Portland which is a 501c3 nonprofit Italian Cultural Organization. Natalie is second generation Italian with grandparents coming from Lazio, Abruzzo and Sicily. Natalie keeps close connections with her Italian family in Lazio and Abruzzo and travels to Italy every year.