Tipping in Italy is by no means a requirement or a custom.
I often come across the question on whether or how much one should leave a tip (or, as we say, a mancia) for a service in my home country and the answer I give is always the same: we Italians don’t have a habit of tipping in Italy – not even when the service we have received was stellar – so please do as the locals do and avoid tipping.
Tipping in Italy is just not a thing – and sure enough it’s not done in the same way it may be done in other countries. And I honestly beg you to please respect this and listen to what Italians have to say about it (rather than asking our friends who visited once years back) because the long term implications may be deeper and more significant than you may imagine (more about this at the end of the post).
Continue reading to unveil the mystery about tipping in Italy and discover if – and how – to do it. Let me first start with some pointers on what you can expect to see on your restaurant bill.
Understanding Your Restaurant Bill In Italy
Like in the rest of Europe, the VAT in Italy (which amounts to 22% of the final price of things) is already built into the price you see. If you go to a bookshop and find a book on sale for €10, that will be the final price you should expect to pay – easy peasy.
But in restaurants, it’s a different story.
Added to the price of what you have ordered and consumed, you may find some smaller charges in the range of €1 to €3 Euro per person for things such as coperto, servizio or pane.
What are those and do you have to pay for them?
First of all, not all restaurants in Italy add pane, coperto or servizio to your final bill. It pretty much is up to the individual restaurant to decide whether to charge those or not – save for some regions such as Lazio (where Rome is) where the coperto has been abolished by law.
Below is a quick explanation of these additional fees.
COPERTO – This charge dates back to Medieval times, when customers would spend endless time inside inns and restaurants so that they could escape the cold and stay “covered” (coperto, in Italian). Coperto is meant to cover for things such as table cloths, crockery etc. It usually includes bread, oil, salt and other things you may be using while at the table. It also covers the cost of things such as cleaning. According to article 18 of law 635/1940, coperto needs to be stated in the menu. It usually ranges from €1 to €3 per person.
SERVIZIO – Servizio is essentially a tip. It can amount to anything between 15 and 20% of the final bill and it is usually added automatically for groups of 8 or more persons. The menu should clearly state if a servizio fee will be added to the final bill for larger groups. Since this is a tip, you don’t need to leave anything else.
PANE – This means bread in Italian. It usually is included in the coperto. Where there is no coperto, like in Lazio, you can expect to pay between €1 and €1.50 for bread. In theory, you don’t have to pay for it if you don’t eat it (in which case, send it back as soon as it is brought to the table). I have yet to come across someone sending back bread here. Besides – do you really want to give up on your scarpetta? (Don’t know what scarpetta is? Find out here).
Why Tipping In Italy Is Not Necessary
There’s an old saying that goes like this: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
In other words, it means you should abide by local rules and customs. This is the responsible thing to do, and shows respect for the people of the country you are visiting (Italy in this case) – even when you’d do things differently back home.
Care to be a more responsible traveler? Read this post!
I am actually very passionate about the subject – because I feel that if you come here and stubbornly decide to break our customs, you may end up creating expectations that, in turn, may change our already unstable economic system.
So, just to sum up, let’s go through the reasons why tipping in Italy is not necessary.
Waiters are actually paid
In many countries – the US for example, but also Israel – tipping is a way of covering the wages of waiters and other workers who are otherwise paid a reduced hourly wage.
Waiters in Italy are actually paid a monthly salary. Which is why tipping in Italy is not a custom and, when we do it, we don’t feel obliged to leave a set %. It’s more of a way of letting a waiter he’s done an exceptional job, and that we’ve truly appreciated that.
The tip is included in the bill already
As I have explained above, most restaurants in Italy will charge a service fee that is either called coperto or – for larger groups – servizio. So, before you reach out to your purse to get some change for a small mancia, carefully read the bill – chances are you will notice that a service charge has been added already. If that’s not the case, just round up the final amount and leave the spare change.
Tipping creates (wrong) expectations
This is the main reason why I believe you really shouldn’t be tipping in Italy – at least, not large amounts as you may be used to in your home country. Tipping creates a whole set of expectations that may have a long term impact on our economic and welfare system, by which waiters feel entitled to a tip even when the customers are actually locals (and let me tell you, the average salary of an Italian is by no means as high as that of people in Northern Europe or North America).
Another thing to consider is that tipping may have a negative impact on wages too – whereby employers don’t feel obliged to pay waiters a fair amount, since they can work for tips.
Finally, tips can’t easily be traced and taxed, and this would in turn cause yet another issue of tax evasion – as if this was not a problem in Italy already!
Now that you know what to expect on your bill, and why tipping in Italy is absolutely not necessary, let’s see when and how much to tip in Italy – in restaurants and for other services.
Tipping In Italy – When To Tip And How Much To Leave
As I have said over and over, there is no actual custom of tipping in Italy and, with that, there is no set amount or percentage you are expected to tip in exchange of a service. It really is up to you if you want to leave something, and how much you leave.
Having said that, below are some tips on tipping (yeah, I really had to say that!).
GOOD TO KNOW: If you really want to leave a tip in Italy, it has to be cash. That also applies to payments by credit card.
Provided there is no coperto or servizio charge on the bill already, whether you leave a tip or not is totally up to you. Definitely do that if the service was stellar; but don’t feel obliged to do it if the service was bad.
How much should you leave then? I’d say €1 per person is perfect, or else just round up the bill. So for example if I am expected to pay €38, I may decide leave €40.
I invited my friends to my favorite pizzeria for my birthday. The waiter kept her cool despite our many (contradicting) requests; pizza was delicious and coperto not included, so I left her a tip.
GOOD TO KNOW: Expect to receive the bill only after you have specifically asked the waiter (it’s considered rude to bring a bill to the table before the customer asks). Only some very busy pubs, bars and coffee shops will bring you the bill upon serving your drinks. Expect to have to pay at the desk at times.
GOOD TO KNOW: We never tip the owner of a business for some reason. So, if you eat at a tiny local place where the same lady is the cook, the waitress and sits at the cash desk, a tip is really not required.
At a café
I have never left a tip at a café – but then, I usually drink my coffee at the bar. If you sit down for coffee, leave a small coin on top of the receipt or simply round up the bill. That’s more than enough.
GOOD TO KNOW: The price of coffee in Italy varies depending on whether you drink at the bar or at a table. Make sure to read my post How To Order Coffee In Italy: The Best Italian Coffee for more.
I don’t think I know anyone who leaves a tip to the bartender. It really isn’t something we do here.
We don’t tip taxi drivers in Italy – not unless it makes getting the change easier. But really, it’s not something we do. The same applies to shuttle drivers.
Once again, remember that tipping is not customary and you shouldn’t feel obliged to tip your guide in Italy. Factors to keep in mind when deciding if and how much to tip a guide should be the duration of the tour and the actual service you have received. If you feel the guide was outstanding, and you were out on a full day tour, leave a tip between €5 and €10. If it was a shorter tour (between 2 and 4 hours), leave no more than €5 Euro. If the tour or the guide were bad, just don’t leave anything.
Tipping at hotels is not expected, but definitely welcome, so you may want to leave a little something to the staff. Here are some guidelines:
- Porter / bellhop / doorman – if the porter carries your bag up four flight of stairs all the way to your room, you will want to leave a €1 euro tip per bag;
- Concierge – leave a tip if you use the services and are given information that isn’t readily available. For example, if you get an excellent top to a local restaurant or receive help snatching last minute tickets to a show, you can leave between €5 and €10;
- Housekeeping – between €0.50 cents and €1 per day for a spotless room. Leave the tip daily in your room, or at the end of your stay at reception, in an envelope, asking for it to be split among the cleaning staff.
Beauty salons, hairdressers and spas
There’s no need for tip your hairdresser or your manicure. Likewise, no tipping is necessary at a spa.
Make sure to read my other posts about Italy:
- A Guide To The Best Places To Visit In Italy
- A Perfect Italy Itinerary: What To See And Do With 10 Days Or More
- What To Do And What To Avoid When Planning A Trip To Italy
- 67 Extremely Useful Travel Tips For Italy
- 17 Reasons To Visit Italy As Soon As Possible
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