Tipping in Rome is absolutely not necessary, but many travelers – especially (but not only) from North America – have a habit of doing it when they visit the Eternal City (and the rest of Italy). We locals don’t typically leave a “mancia” (that’s Italian for tip), because it’s by no means customary or required. And the few times we do, we certainly don’t do it the same way people do it on the other side of the Atlantic.
Now – I appreciate that leaving your customs at home when you visit Rome can be difficult. So I thought I’d write a short guide that will help you evaluate when tipping in Rome is necessary (and how much you should tip); when it isn’t; and when, in fact, it should be avoided entirely.
Before I provide you with a locals’ approved tipping guide, let me show you how to break down your restaurant bill in Italy.
Understanding Your Restaurant Bill In Italy
You may be used to tipping waiters and other hospitality staff back in your own country, but here in Rome things are a little bit different. The most common place to see things done the Roman way is in a restaurant.
First things first: VAT in Italy is 22% of an item’s final price. This is the same across Europe. This is almost always included in the price of items on the menu.
Tips are not expected in restaurants in Rome. But there may be some other additions added onto your bill – things which you may not necessarily have any experience of where you’re from.
These are called coperto, servizio and pane. Not all restaurants in Rome will add these charges, and it is up to the establishment as to whether they want to include them in the bill (or not).
COPERTO – The coperto is a medieval charge that dates back hundreds of years. While in many places in Italy this charge is still charged (usually around €1-3 per person), in Rome – and the rest of the Lazio region – it has actually been abolished by law.
That means if you do come across somebody trying to make you pay the coperto at a Rome restaurant, chances are they’re running a shady business, and it’s best to choose somewhere else to eat. If in doubt, ask if the coperto is charged.
SERVIZIO – Translating to “service”, servizio is basically a built-in tip, but is more like a service charge that is often added in high-end establishments. The amount can range between 10-20% of the final bill and is usually added when you’re in a large group of people.
Since this is basically the same as a tip, you won’t have to leave a tip at the table (if that’s something you wish to do). Any restaurant that includes a servizio should have this clearly written on the menu.
PANE – Pane (meaning “bread”) is a bread charge. Yes: that tasty bread that is served to you at your table before you order your meal is, sadly, not free of charge. But it’s nothing major – just one or two Euros added to the bill at the end of the meal.
For those of you who really don’t want to devour the delicious bread, there is always the option to send it back, but do you really want to give it up for just a couple of Euros? Most restaurants in Rome will feature the pane, as typically when there’s no coperto, there’s a pane – with the coperto out of action in Rome, expect the pane in many eateries.
Why Tipping In Rome Is Not Necessary
There’s a completely different restaurant scene in Rome compared to New York or London. Not only is the food different, but the culture around restaurants is totally not the same. Tipping in Rome, in any form, is just not what locals do in restaurants. So why come to Rome and not do what the Romans do? That’s not how the saying goes.
However, just so you know why you don’t need to tip in Rome, here are a few good reasons to avoid tipping.
Waiters have a salary
Being a waiter in other countries is different. In the U.S. for example, people are paid low hourly rates to wait tables, and therefore it is expected that tipping will make up the rest of the wage. Otherwise, the staff wouldn’t have enough money to live.
In Italy, and therefore in Rome, it’s the norm for waiters to be paid a monthly salary. That means tipping is not so essential, and customers don’t feel pressured in any way to leave a particular amount as a tip.
For those who really want to leave a tip, it is sometimes done, but only as a way of showing appreciation for particularly good or above-and-beyond service.
Tipping could have a negative impact
The main reason to not tip in Rome is simply because it will have a knock-on effect on the city’s dining culture. Sure, it’s normal to tip in the U.S. – normally around 20% – but these big tips in Rome may have a negative impact on the economy and welfare system.
People in Rome don’t rely on tips, thanks to their monthly salaries – if tipping becomes the norm, this may have an effect on their wages, whereby employers may feel like they don’t have to pay a fair wage to waiters.
Not only that, but it could even have a negative effect on Rome’s dining customers too. The wages here aren’t as high as you might expect – especially compared to Northern Europe – and locals dining out may be put off if a large tip becomes the custom, or becomes expected, simply because tourists have been paying big 20% tips.
Lastly, tipping isn’t easily traced and can be pocketed by staff without declaring tax. This is a problem in the whole Italy anyway, and a culture of tipping could further cause problems.
Most restaurants include an added charge anyway
As I’ve mentioned already, most restaurants in Rome will either include the pane or the servizio (or sometimes both) in the bill. These extra charges are already additional to the price of your food, and so basically work as a tip for the staff or owners of the restaurant.
If you want to leave a tip at this stage, make sure you double check these charges. If it hasn’t been included on the bill, you could always leave a few Euros to show your appreciation. If that’s the case for you, read on to see just how you should go about tipping in Rome.
Tipping In Rome – When To Tip And How Much To Leave
Although there isn’t a custom of leaving tips in Rome, you probably will come across a few different services – not only limited to restaurants – where you’d like to leave a small token of your appreciation.
Here’s a helpful guide on where it’s appropriate to leave a tip, and how much you should leave.
If there’s no servizio, then tipping in a restaurant in Rome is something you can do if you feel like it. However, I would only suggest leaving a tip if you’ve had some particularly amazing service, and you appreciate the job that the waiter has done.
For example, if you’re in a large group and you’ve got lots of different orders, and the meal was great, and the waiter was friendly and accommodating the whole time, then of course: you can leave a tip. I would say that around €1 per person is a good amount.
Another way to tip in a Roman restaurant is to simply round up the bill to the nearest whole number. So if your bill comes to €19, leaving €20 – if you like the service – is totally fine.
A quick tip on tipping: In small eateries where the owner does all the jobs of cooking and waiting and cashing up, then you won’t need to leave a tip. For some reason, it’s just not the done thing to tip the owner of the business.
At a café
If you’re in Rome, you should definitely visit one of the city’s amazing cafes and sample a quick espresso. Leaving a tip in one of these casual coffee houses, especially if you drink at the counter, is simply not the norm.
If you do choose to sit down and enjoy your coffee from a seat, then you could opt to round up the bill to the nearest whole number or leave a small amount (€1 is more than enough). Don’t forget that coffee prices do vary depending on if you stand or sit.
Unlike in the U.S. where it is very common and often expected to tip a bartender, in Rome this just isn’t the case. One place you may want to leave a tip is at a hotel bar. Again, as with other establishments, leaving €1 or rounding up your bill is fine – if you want to. If the place is really fancy, however, you may want to consider leaving more than just €1.
Romans don’t normally tip their taxi drivers. It’s ok to do if you want to round it up to the nearest number, just to make change easier, but a tip is not expected in a taxi in Rome.
Tipping a tour guide is up to you, but I would say that you only tip out of appreciation. If it’s been a long tour, and if the guide has been particularly entertaining or informative, then leaving a few Euros at the end of the tour would be more than appreciated – I do that myself at times.
Even so, you shouldn’t feel obliged to leave a tip, especially if it hasn’t been a particularly interesting tour. Tip at your discretion.
Like a bartender at a hotel, tipping various staff who also work at your hotel is something you can do if you feel like it. However, note that the fancier the hotel you’re at, the more likely it is that a tip would be expected.
PORTER / BELLHOP / DOORMAN – In expensive hotels who have these staff (budget hotels won’t even have doormen, for example), it’s customary to tip €1-2 for services such as carrying bags to your room or if the doorman carries the bag to your check-in desk.
CONCIERGE – Concierge services at hotels will vary, but for high-end places a concierge can provide a whole array of different services. They might give you a selection of restaurants to eat in, book you tickets for a show, or help you plan a day trip. These invaluable services come at a cost, but you can also leave a tip on top of the final bill. It’s a sliding scale depending on how helpful the concierge has been, but generally around 15% of the final bill is appreciated.
HOUSEKEEPING – It’s not usual to tip the housekeeping staff in Rome hotels, but if you’ve appreciated the cleaning staff’s hard work then you can leave anything between 50 cents and €1. Rounded up, around €6 for a mid-range hotel would be fine. You can either leave this in your room, daily, or put a larger amount in an envelope and deliver it to the hotel reception to be divided among the cleaning staff.
Beauty salons, hairdressers and spas
If you decide to visit a salon, spa or hairdresser while you’re in Rome, you won’t need to worry about a tip. There’s no need to tip any staff at one of these establishments – just enjoy your treatment.
Final tips for tipping in Rome
LEAVE YOUR TIP IN CASH – Even if you’ve paid for a service using a credit or debit card, whether it’s a hotel room or a meal in a restaurant, you should pay your tip in cash only.
ROUND IT UP – You don’t need to be specific with your tip, and it doesn’t even need to be a whole Euro. Leaving a €10 note for a charge of €9.52 is as much of a tip as anything else.
YOU DON’T NEED TO TIP FOR TAKEOUT FOOD – If you’re just grabbing a sandwich to go from a cafe, there’s really no need to round up the cost of what you’re purchasing or give an extra Euro to the staff.
DON’T TIP IN SHOPS – It’s not normal to leave any amount in a shop, whether it’s a clothing store or a toy shop.
DON’T TIP THE OWNER – I mentioned this earlier, but the owners of establishments in Rome never receive a tip. Only tip the people who are serving you, not the actual owners.
BEWARE OF TOURIST RESTAURANTS – Sometimes these places can add on a sneaky extra charge, or even ask for a coperto – which is illegal in Rome, as I said, but still happens. The best thing to do is simply avoid touristy restaurants.
These other posts may be useful when planning a trip to Rome:
- The Best Tips For Visiting Rome
- The Best Time To Visit Rome
- Where To Stay In Rome
- The Best Restaurants In Rome