To tip or not to tip? That is the question!
In the United States, leaving a tip is mandatory; in Italy, it’s more of a voluntary gesture to show appreciation for services received.
There are no written rules, and it’s actually illegal to ask for a tip.
However, there are situations when not leaving a tip can be considered impolite and a sign that you are dissatisfied with the service provided.
Most of the time, this confuses both visitors to our country and Italians, too.
So let’s try to figure out how to behave so that you won’t make a bad impression.
Here’s a helpful guide to help you avoid behaving like a cheapskate.
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What are the rules for tipping in Italy?
My friends living in other countries frequently ask me, “What are the rules for tipping in Italy?” “How should we behave?”
The short answer is that there aren’t any rules in Italy, and tipping is neither mandatory nor customary.
That’s partially because Italian waitstaff aren’t as reliant on tips as they are in many parts of the US, and partially because it’s already included in the bill in some places.
A 10–15% surcharge for your service is sometimes imposed, and you can find it at the bottom of your bill.
If “servizio” appears as one of the items on your bill (conto), the service has already been covered.
It’s not to be confused with “coperto,” which is a payment ranging from €1 to €2.50 per person to cover basics such as bread and olive oil brought at the beginning of the meal. This cost may also be referred to as the “pane,” and it doesn’t represent a tip.
However, in some cases, Italians like to tip even if the service (servizio in Italian) is already included in the bill, but the amount given is often lower than what you may be used to back home.
Let me explain this further.
Tipping customs in Italy may differ slightly from what you’re used to.
In Italy, it’s up to the consumer to decide whether or not to tip.
There are some who never leave anything, those who always leave something, and those who feel it depends.
If the service has been attentive and accurate, the food has been delicious, and the whole experience has been nice, the decision is simple: the tip should be left.
However, there’s no need to pay 20, or even more than 20 percent extra.
On the other hand, if the service wasn’t up to scratch and the waiter was unfriendly and slow, ruining your experience and meal, the tip is not necessary.
Even if you’re in a high-end or well-known restaurant and you’re not going to tip because you’re unhappy with the service, you can avoid embarrassment by paying directly to the cashier.
How to tip in Italy?
Foreign tourists will sometimes openly push money into the waiter’s hand.
Worse, they’ll slip them inside their pockets.
Don’t do it!
It’s quite impolite and embarrassing for the waiter and other diners!
The polite way to leave a tip for the waiter is to leave it on the table when you get up to leave.
And if you pay your bill at the cashier’s desk, you may leave the tip there as well.
Usually you leave a tip in cash, even when paying by card.
In many circumstances, you can’t add the tip to the bill on the card machine since the total must match the total at the cashier.
So, it’s always a good idea to have some spare change or small notes on hand in case you need to leave something behind.
Tipping in Italy: At the restaurant
While it’s not common practice, some restaurants will add an additional 5-10% tip onto larger bills (like large parties).
If a service charge isn’t included, the amount you tip depends on the overall cost, your level of satisfaction, and the type of restaurant you are in.
If the service was excellent and you had a good time, the appropriate amount is to round up, and in this case, you tell the waiter to keep the change.
For example, if a restaurant bill is 46 euros, it is customary to leave 50 euros without asking for change.
However, on a 100-euro bill, it’s more fair to leave a 10 euro tip, which is 10%.
And remember that the tip at a restaurant is not given in the waiter’s hand, with a folded banknote, but is left on the table under a glass, or in the bill holder along with the signed credit card receipt.
Tipping in Italy: At a bar or café
A tip is not expected when ordering a coffee in an Italian bar or café.
However, you may notice some locals who do tip.
To order a coffee at the counter, you usually have to pay the cashier first, who then gives you a receipt, and then you proceed to the counter and collect your coffee.
Typically, Italians leave €0.10 or €0.20 coins on the counter with the receipt or in the tip jar, if one is available.
Many cafes have tip jars on the bar where you may leave your loose change.
Keep in mind that most cafes will charge you more if you have your coffee at a table rather than standing at the bar.
The pricing lists by the counter usually refer to the cost of a standing drink, and only a few of them include the cost of a sit-down meal, so if you’re in a touristic area, it’s worth verifying the cost of table service before sitting down.
You’re already paying a service fee when you sit at a table, so you shouldn’t feel obligated to leave extra.
However, if you receive great service, you can also round up to the nearest euro.
Tipping in Italy: Taxi drivers
Tipping a taxi driver is not expected; your driver will give you the correct change and expect you to keep it.
However, I’ve noticed that a lot of people do leave a small amount.
Telling a taxi driver to keep the change is the most common way to tip them.
A 14-euro taxi fare can easily be rounded up to 15.
You can also give a tip if they help you with your luggage (1 euro per suitcase).
Tipping in Italy: Hotels and other accommodation
There are no tipping expectations in facilities like apartments and guesthouses.
Tipping is not expected but often appreciated in smaller hotels and B & Bs.
Tipping is appreciated in larger hotels with a porter, a waiter who serves you often at meals, or in the case of longer stays, and you can use the same rule of thumb as in restaurants:
– 1–2 euros per day as a sign of appreciation to the housekeeping staff. If you want to ensure good service during your stay, it’s ideal to leave it every day, but you may also leave it in your room at the end;
– 1-2 euros each day of your stay is a great gesture for a committed waiter who has looked after you throughout your stay;
– Porters who carry your bags are usually paid one euro per bag.
-If the concierge assisted you during your stay (restaurant recommendations, ticket booking), a tip is greatly appreciated. You can give between 5 and 10 euros, depending on the assistance provided.
Tipping in Italy: tour guides
Usually, when you choose to take a paid tour, a tip is not expected, although it’s always greatly appreciated.
Guides are frequently paid only a portion of the fee you paid.
However, if you have booked a guided tour with a licensed, independent guide, there is no need to tip.
If the guide is not independent and you are enthusiastic about the experience, the amount given could range from a few euros per person for a group tour to as much as 10% of the tour cost for a private tour.
Free tours usually rely on voluntary contributions, and it’s considered common courtesy to tip the guide, usually 5–10 euros per person.
However, the amount you tip is entirely dependent on how much of a highlight tour it was and what, if any, extra things your tour guide did for you (e.g., a private tour or special food recommendations).
For instance, if they show you around a city all day while also giving you suggestions on where to eat, definitely consider tipping more!
I hope you find these real-world guidelines useful and that you feel confident about tipping (or not tipping) during your visit to Italy!
Obviously, these are simply suggestions on how to behave in order to make a “good impression.” If you feel up to it and have the financial means, feel free to be more generous with your gratuity!
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Planning a trip to Italy? Check out my post, “How to Plan a Trip to Italy.”