RIMINI, Italy—The journey to making La Galvanina’s award-winning sodas and iced treats starts deep underground—with the water.
This Italian company based in Rimini, on the Adriatic Coast, was founded in 1901 to bottle the mineral water that bubbled up from the picturesque hills of Covignano, at a not-so-secret spot that the ancient Romans knew about 2,000 years ago. Over a gentle journey that spans more than 30 months, these waters make their way from the Apennine Mountains. Where they emerge is known as one of the oldest mineral water springs in Europe.
Through four generations and two world wars, the Mini family has looked after the area and collected the waters that bubble up through the porous bedrock, filtered and richly mineralized in the most natural way: by building sedimentation chambers and guiding the water to the bottling factory with gravity only.
Walking through the sloping tunnels toward the spring, where one has to duck every now and then, I was struck by the eerie quietness. There was no movement save for the gentle bubbling and the unseen flow of the water through shiny pipes, from the collection chambers to the factory some yards downhill. And save, perhaps, for the water nymphs that may preside here or tend over the historic Fountain of Love located above ground, a popular spot for couples to come drink and seek blessings.
La Galvanina has bottled the waters here for years—some under its own name, many under a private label. It’s only been more recently that Rino Mini, its president and CEO, has taken the company in a new direction, venturing into the drinks and frozen treats business—with the gently effervescent mineral water as their base.
It’s a business decision that would leave many scratching their heads. Why use mineral water when you could simply turn on the tap? And as for sourcing the fruit, there’s an almost defiant determination to use only the best possible—organic, handpicked at the peak of ripeness, and only from the region that can grow the tastiest.
For citrus, for example, that means Sicily. The fruits have a thick pith that protects the pulp, Mini explained to me over lunch at his office, but it’s also more than that. By way of illustration, Mini picked up a huge Sicilian lemon from the table and offered me a slice, knowing I’d think the pith would be bitter. To my surprise, it was sweet and fragrant—that, too, it turns out, is used to make the soda.
It reminded me of the whiffs I caught as I walked through the soda factory—that time, it must have been clementine soda being made—unmistakable in its sweetness. Later, when I tasted the soda, it was like the essence of clementine fruit, captured and bottled.
Among the frozen treat products is the Lolly, a type of sorbetto-on-a-stick made in small batches by hand with that very same mineral water and organic fruit. Though available in several flavors, the best is the classic, original lemon Lolly, refreshing and with an aroma so floral you’d think lemon flowers had gone into the mix. This year, the Organic Blood Orange flavor won a Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation (sofi) award from the Specialty Food Association. The Lollys are now available to purchase through Fresh Direct. Another award winner is the company’s Blood Orange, Black Carrot, and Blueberry organic soda.
They’re well worth seeking out. In a world where cheaper and more convenient sourcing is common, La Galvanina takes the opposite road. To borrow from poet Robert Frost, that makes all the difference.
In the New York area, you can find the sodas at these locations:
Cerini Coffee and Gifts
Ceriello, Williston Park
DeCicco Market, Scarsdale
Garden of Eden
North Shore Market
Russo’s Mozzarella & Pasta