Say grazie with cash: all about Italian tipping etiquette
If you don't tip the cameriere who brings you a perfect, tiny cappuccino, will he think you're a rude American? But wait – what if you do tip him, and then you feel the need to tip every service person you interact with, and you end up blowing your budget and leaving Florence without a single souvenir? U.S. travelers tend to be unnecessarily anxious when it comes to tipping culture abroad. On your next Italian jaunt, waste no time worrying about the "should-I-or-shouldn't-I" of tipping etiquette. Basically, tip anyone you want, but no taxi driver or bellhop will bat an eye if you fail to proffer cash at the end of your interaction.
Q: Do people tip in Italy?
A: In Italian culture, tipping is nowhere near as common as in U.S. culture. Italians truly see tips as gratuities: gestures of appreciation for a job well done. That differs from the U.S. where tipping is commonplace in restaurants, cabs, beauty salons and hotels. So in Italy, diners might leave a tip for a waiter who goes above and beyond. They probably won't, however, tip the taxi driver who takes them home.
Q: So... should I tip in Italy?
A: You certainly can if you want to. Especially in areas that are popular with tourists, service workers are accustomed to receiving tips from U.S. travelers, and they may expect it from you. Ultimately, though, it really comes down to personal preference. You may feel good about leaving gratuities and want to continue that habit while in Italy. Or you may decide to scale back on tipping until you return home.
It doesn't have to be all or nothing, however. Feel free to tip on a case-by-case basis, and know that no service workers will expect you to fork over a 15 to 20 percent tip.
Q: How is tipping handled in restaurants in Italy?
A: Tipping waiters and bartenders is expected in U.S. establishments, so you may have the most tipping anxiety in Italian bars and restaurants. Before you decide what (if anything) to leave as gratuity, skim the entire menu. If you see the words "servizio incluso," a service charge is included in your bill. If you don't see those words, or if you see "servizio non incluso" on the menu, check your final bill to see if a servizio charge is added there.
Feel free to leave a tip if you see no mention of the service charge, but keep in mind that waiters are paid a larger salary in Italy than they in most U.S. restaurants, and therefore don't rely on tips. Leave just a few euros for a modest bill, or round up to the nearest 10 on a larger bill. For instance, leave 70 euros for a 64 euro bill.
It's not customary to tip at a counter-service restaurant. At a bar, round up to the nearest euro, or leave a full euro extra if you're so inclined.
You may see coperto on your bill, which is a cover charge intended to cover table basics like bread, glasses of water, tablecloths and silverware. Only some places include coperto. It's not the same as a service charge and shouldn't take the place of a gratuity.
Q: What about in hotels and taxis?
A: Although the bellhop may not expect a tip, it's always kind to reward a person who does the manual labor of bringing your luggage to your room. Give just a few euros, or more if you have a lot of heavy or bulky bags to deliver. If you want to tip the housekeeping staff, leave about 1 euro per day in the room at the end of your stay.
It's not customary to tip a taxi driver in Italy, although some expect gratuities from U.S. passengers. Feel no obligation to provide one. If you'd like to tip anyway, round up to the nearest euro.