At restaurants in Italy, coperto is an automatic, mandatory per-person charge that shows up on the bill. Our coperto guide answers the top questions most tourists when paying their bill in Italy.
Coperto in Italy
If you’re googling coperto at a restaurant in Italy right now, chances are you want quick answers. We’ve got you! Use the following links to jump around our guide. Find out what coperto means in English, the history of it, what it typically costs, why coperto is legal, not a tip, if you have to pay it.
What Coperto Means in English
In English coperto means covered. In fact, the Cambridge English dictionary defines it as covered, protected, indoors. Think of it as a cover charge for the cost of providing indoor shelter, table linens, clean utensils, and bread of which no table in Italy is complete without. Back to Top
Coperto has been part of eating in Italy since the middle ages when Italians would bring food with them as they traveled. If they stopped at an inn to seek shelter or cover during harsh weather but brought their own food in, traveleres paid to use shared items. For example plates, silverware, tables, and chairs.
The video below goes into more detail. If you don’t speak Italian, turn on English closed captions. Back to Top
What Coperto Typically Costs
Typically, coperto costs between 1€ to 3€ per person. Locals and tourists alike pay the same amount.
Coperto is not a way to up-charge tourists or scam them out of money. That is unless it is exceedingly high and you’ve found yourself in a tourist traps. To be sure, simply look for details on the menu and keep in mind this is a per person charge. Also don’t be afraid to ask how much it costs “quanto è coperto?” if you cannot find it. Back to Top
Why It’s Legal
Restaurants list coperto charges directly on the menu or post it in the restaurant. As a result it’s legal in Italy. However, coperto is unregulated in Italy so restaurants can charge as they see fit. This is why touristy places like Venice, Rome, and Florence can and sometimes do demand higher prices. The price is set by what the local market will bear. Back to Top
Yes, You Have to Pay It
Traveling on a budget? Keep in mind, coperto is part of the culture of eating in Italy. So even if you don’t want bread and there are no table linens, expect to see it on the bill. It might seem strange but when compared to the 15% – 20% tip American restaurants expect customers to fork over, it’s a steal. Speaking of tipping. Back to Top
No, It’s Not a Tip
Because coperto is a restaurant charge, the funds go to the restaurant not the waiter. Consequently it is not the same thing as paying a tip. Unless there is a charge for ‘servizio’ meaning service on the bill, there is no tip included for the waiter.
Servizio has historically not been common in Italy. Servizio is a bit of a tourist tax. Areas highly trafficked by tourists such as Amalfi, Venice, Rome, and Florence are seeing it show up more and more. Fortunately servizio must be listed, so be sure before settling in to check any fine print on the menu.
If servizio is included in the bill, there is no need to leave a separate tip for the waiter unless you really want to. In which case, so our guide to tipping in Italy. Back to Top
To sum it up, coperto is legal in Italy and has been since the middle ages. Do expect to see it on the bill in Italy and pay it. Although tipping in Italy is minimal don’t confuse it for a tip. If you want to make sure to not get scammed while in Italy, check the menu or restaurant listing for details on costs before ordering.
As an American married to an Italian for over a decade who now lives in Italy, I’ve had the privilege to eat in Italy’s best restaurants and been invited to Italian family tables. This experience served as the inspiration for our Eating in Italy article. Quick bites of how to enjoy eating in Italy without the stress or frustration that can come when confronted with new cultural experiences.
If you’re just getting started on your first vacation in Italy here is a quick list of articles about eating in Italy.
- Do you tip in Italy? Yes, but the amounts might surprise you. Guide to tipping in Italy
- Can you drink tap water in Italy? You bet! Tap water in Italy is absolutely safe to drink with just a few exceptions. Guide to water safety in Italy
- What’s up with all the meal courses in Italy? Do you have to order them all? Answer to questions about traditional meal courses in Italy and ordering in Italy
- What every tourist needs to know about eating in Italy. 25 Do’s & Don’ts of Eating in Italy
- Plus don’t miss our Italy Trips section where we discuss many of the best places to eat in Italy’s most popular destinations. You’ll find recommendations for the best cliffside restaurant in Italy and tips on where to eat in Venice, Puglia, Rome and coming soon Sicily.
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- Definition of Coperto — Cambridge English Dictionary
Hi Brandy sending a hug. I found this piece really interesting I did not know about Coparto and I’ve been to Italy once on a Parillo tour and once with Valerie and I going on our own!
Sent from my iPhone
Hugs right back to you Dolores! I’m always happy to share fun tips that I’m learning about life here in Italy. Especially after watching a tourist fight with the restaurant staff about Coperto. Poor guy. Paolo and I had a long discussion about Coperto that day which is how I learned about it myself. Hoping you’ll get another chance to eat your way through Italy soon.