At restaurants in Italy, coperto, meaning “covered,” is an automatic, mandatory per-person charge that shows up on the bill. No, coperto is not a tourist trap. Yes, you have to pay coperto in Italy. No, coperto is not a tip in Italy. Coperto typically costs between 1€ to 3€ per person in Italy.
We know that’s a lot of answers about coperto to lead an article off with but, there is a reason we did it. Since an August 2023 article from CNN reported outrageous rip-offs targeting tourists in Italy, everyone has been paying extra attention to their bills in Italy. Even us locals.
From $2 to cut a sandwich in half to $65 for two coffees and bottles of water, some of the worst offenders have been beachfront establishments in Puglia, lavish locations like Portofino, and popular destinations like Rome.
Consequently, if you are searching for coperto meaning after getting your bill from a restaurant in Italy, you probably want quick answers.
Coperto in Italy Guide
Our coperto guide answers these questions for you in more detail below. From coperto meaning to the history of coperto in Italy.
Use the following links to jump around our guide and discover everything you need to know about coperto while traveling in Italy.
Coperto Meaning in English
In English coperto means covered. The Cambridge English dictionary in fact, defines coperto meaning as “covered, protected, indoors.”
So you can think of coperto as a cover charge for the cost of providing indoor shelter, table linens, clean utensils, and bread which no table in Italy is complete without.
History of Coperto in Italy
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 food in, travelers 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.
What Coperto Costs in Italy
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 trap. 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.
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.
Yes, You Have to Pay It
Traveling on a budget? Remember, 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.
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 is Different
Historically servizio has not been common in Italy. These days servizio is seen in Italy as 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 this case, our guide to tipping in Italy will help.
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 of eating in Italy’s best restaurants and being 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 in Italy
- What’s up with all the meal courses in Italy? Do you have to order them all? We answer all your questions about traditional meal courses 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.
We’re Brandy & Paolo, dual American, Italian citizens, artists, and introverts traveling in Italy together since 2012. After following our dreams of early retirement to Italy, we created ALOR Italy from our home in the Italian Alps. We’re passionate about sharing the Italy we know and love as locals. Our motto is Live Italian because the Italian lifestyle is life-changing.
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- Definition of Coperto — Cambridge English Dictionary