What legislation covers this?
Is this the case in other European countries? I am particularly interested in whether this is a legal requirement in Italy.
In the UK, this is covered in the Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) (Amendment) Order 2014, which amends the Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010.
Mandatory Licensing Condition 2 states:
The responsible person must ensure that free potable water is provided on request to customers where it is reasonably available.
Note that this applies only to premises which are licensed to sell alcohol.
- France is an often cited example of a country that mandates restaurants to serve tap water for free,
while Germany and Austria do not have any such legislation.
- In Austria it is nevertheless more usual than in Germany for restaurants to not charge guests for tap water (according to the linked German newspaper articles).
- In Germany, expect to be charged also for tap water - though my last experience in Germany is also: no charge for tap water alongside a big bowl of coffee.
I'm not entirely sure about the legal situation in Italy, but the very least it is in my experience customary for restaurants to provide tap water for free (sometimes automatically, sometimes after asking).
There have been some rumours that the EU may mandate free tap water in restaurants and the like, but the AFAIK current status of that directive proposal speaks about
encouraging [rather than mandating] the free provision of water intended for human consumption in public buildings, restaurants, [...]