Tipping in Italy

Virtually every Italy Beyond the Obvious client has at one point asked for advice about tipping in Italy.  They want to know:

Whom do I tip, and how much?

This is usually how the conversation starts. The short answer is that tips are not necessary, but if you are happy with a service, you can tip 10%. It’s a little more nuanced than that so I’ve gone in to more detail below.

Tipping in Italy

Here are a few things to know about tipping in Italy

Tipping at restaurants in Italy

Two-thirds of Italians leave no tip at meals (link in Italian), but leaving a small tip or no tip makes many North Americans uncomfortable, so if you are happy with the service, leave a 10% tip. If you weren’t thrilled with the service but it was fine and you don’t want to leave nothing, you can leave 5%. Remember a few things, though:

  • Know that your server is already being paid a living wage and does not depend on your tips in order to make ends meet.
  • Look at the breakdown of your bill. You will very likely see a cover charge, called a copertoin the amount of about 2-3 euros per head. This is completely normal and should be an expected charge on your bill anytime you sit down anywhere, even if all you order is a glass of water. (The key words there are “sit down”. If you stand at a bar, you will not get charged the cover.)
  • Note that some restaurants add an additional service charge, listed on the bill as servizio. A servizio charge is usually about 10% and should not be a surprise at the time you receive the bill. It should be written on the menu, and often applies to specific scenarios like for parties of 8 people or more. This charge is the tip, so if you ever see a charge for servizio, do not leave anything additional.

There is one final thing I’d like to mention here: some Italian servers in places with lots of tourists (like the centers of Rome, Florence, and Venice) are now so accustomed to receiving tips from North Americans that I have heard stories of them asking whether the customer needs change (if let’s say, you give them 60 euros for a 55 euro bill). In the US, this is not a bad question from a server, but in Italy it is incredibly rude. If any server ever asks you whether you need change, then of course you do.

 

Tipping taxis and other drivers in Italy

You can give your taxi driver a bit of extra money, but it’s not really a tip. Think of it more as rounding up the fare a few cents so that nobody has to deal with small change. So if your taxi fare is 19 euros and 70 cents, you can give the driver 20 euros and tell them to keep the rest. If your fare is 18 euros and 70 cents, you can ask for 1 euro back in change.

For drivers who quote a fixed fare – for example an airport fare or a pre-paid fare – there is no need to add a tip. Let’s say you have booked a driver in advance who meets you at the airport holding a sign with your name on it, and you know the flat rate is 70 euros from the airport to your hotel. Give the driver the 70 euros (or give them more but expect change in return) and say thank you.

 

Tipping tour guides in Italy

It’s very difficult for North American travelers to spend several hours with a guide and then not give the guide a tip. It seems to be embedded our DNA! Keep in mind that local guides do not depend on or expect tips. However, they are aware that if North Americans tip, it means they are happy with the service, so the gesture is definitely appreciated. Again if you are looking for guidance, tip 10%.

 

Tipping at hotels in Italy

A rule of thumb for tipping a bellhop for transporting bags to your room is 1 – 2 euros per bag. If a concierge spends a significant amount of time helping you with recommendations, booking tickets, or making dinner reservations for you, a tip will also be much appreciated.

 

Tipping in Italy: a cultural note

The reason Italians don’t tip as much (or as often) as North Americans is cultural. Apart from the fact that they know the tip is not needed in order to make ends meet, Italians view tips as highlighting the power dynamics between the tipper and the tippee, where the tipper is more powerful and the person receiving the tip is akin to a subordinate. For this reason, don’t ever tip the owner of a business. (I went to a hairdresser in Milan recommended by a friend, and I had to making a point of finding out whether the person cutting my hair was the salon owner or an employee. Owner = no tip ; employee = tip).

Of course, in our minds, tips have nothing to do with a power dynamic and are simply a way of showing appreciation for good service. Italians who give service to North American travelers are usually aware that tips represent gratitude and thus genuinely appreciate the gesture.

 

Photo of our lovely server Sabine at the Hotel Conturines Posta in San Cassiano


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7 Comments

  1. Giovanna
    September 2, 2015

    I am Italian and could not agree more with this!
    As I am fluent in English and often travel in Italy with my British friends, I get enraged when a tip is expected or worse extorted (by putting the change in another pocket as happened to me in a touristy bar in Rome).
    Indeed, if you are Italian, especially local, and you and the owner get a good vibe from each other you are expected to receive a discount and/or an additional offering, such as a glass of limoncello at the end of the meal.

    Reply
    • Madeline
      September 2, 2015

      Thanks for your comment Giovanna and good point about the relationship between the customer and the owner – it almost goes the other way in Italy doesn’t it, where the appreciation is shown to the guest by the host rather than the other way around.

      Reply
  2. Two Weeks in Italy - Runway Chef
    May 13, 2016

    […] the restaurant is still charging you the service fee. You can read more about tipping in Italy here and […]

    Reply
  3. Viva Mertlich
    August 29, 2016

    Thank you, this is very helpful.

    Reply
  4. Tina
    September 23, 2016

    Than you for this. Many of the other articles you find are five or yen years old or more. This is a good reminder that things are still the same. Had to remind hubby about the tipping more than once. He left 6Euros on a 14Euro bill the other day. (We are here in Rome this week for our first time.) He is one of those that HAVE TO leave something. I have enough good European friends that in Europe I tend to be more “stingy” with my tips.

    Reply
  5. This Week in Travel - December 10, 2016 - BaldThoughtsBaldThoughts
    December 11, 2016

    […] Tipping in Italy by Italy Beyond the Obvious – hint: you only tip when the service is excellent or they’ve gone out of their way for you. […]

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  6. Donna
    February 12, 2017

    Thank you for being specific! Many of the blogs I have read on this subject are so vague as to be useless. We are heading for Italy next week, and I appreciate the great information on a subject that is confusing for North Americans.

    Reply

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