Italian Food

Guilt Free Tipping in Italy, How Much to Leave

Tipping in Italy is like paying a good compliment. Always appreciated, never anticipated. Observations on where, when, and how Italians tip in Italy.

Una mancia (pronounced oo-nah MAN-chah) means tip as in gratuity in Italian. The very fact that there is a word for “tip” in Italian means that yes, tipping is a thing in Italy. Yet when asked, Italians themselves say tipping is not expected in Italy. Expected being the operative word because Italians do tip in Italy because tipping is a cornerstone of acknowledgment for excellent service. So what’s a tourist to do?

Unfortunately, what information can be found online (often from high-end travel magazines) is a little off when it comes to tipping in Italy. 15% or higher is what tourists who don’t understand Italian culture tip in Italy. It’s not customary to tip that much in Italy, and it’s infrequently what Italians themselves tip.

While decoding tipping in Italy is partly personal preference, it helps to follow what local Italians naturally do. Something I’ve been observing now for over a decade while traveling, and now living in Italy. Here are the best practices for tipping in Italy including when and how much to tip.

Tipping in Italy

Americans might be surprised by how many waiters in Italy are adults and not teenagers. While being a waiter in America is often a way to make it through college and then move on, Italians respect the trade as a career. Partly because many restaurants in Italy are family owned. Plus, waiters in Italy are paid a living wage unlike in America where tips are expected to make up the largest percentage of their wage.

In Italy, tipping depends on two main factors. Where you are, meaning Bar vs Ristorante or sitting vs standing and how ordinary or extraordinary the service received is. Let’s dig into those variables a bit, starting with a tip on how to give a tip in Italy.

How to Give a Tip in Italy

In America, it’s not uncommon to leave cash for the bill and tip on the table. Italians rarely if ever leave cash on the table in Italy. Since waiters are not automatically tipped in Italy, checking the table for tips after customers leave is also not automatic. Italians who tip are going out of their way to say thanks for the excellent service. In Italy, Tipping is a personal decision and handled personally.

Euro tipping in italy

To express proper gratitude for exceptional service in the form of a tip in Italy, hand the tip in euros directly to the waiter, look them in the eye, and say “grazie” (thank you in Italian).

ALOR Italy Tip: In Italy, if a restaurant excepts credit cards, you’ll either be asked to pay at la cassa (the cashier) or a small handheld credit card machine will be brought to the table. Unfortunately, neither option comes with the ability to add la mancia (the tip) to the credit card charge.

Always carry a stash of euros in Italy to be able to leave a tip, even when paying by credit card. @ALOR_Italy

Tipping at a Bar in Italy

Italians are as likely to start their day, as to end their day at a bar in Italy. Bars in Italy serve coffee, sandwiches, aperitivos, and are a convenient stop for small on-the-go items from pastries and gelato to scratch-off lottery tickets or bottles of water. Open all day long Italian bars offer a relaxed, flexible experience for customers. It’s customary for Italians to stop for an espresso on the way to work or for quick breaks throughout the day for which they stand at the bar.

If you drink an espresso standing at the counter in a bar in Italy or purchase anything to go no tip is expected. However, if you sit at a table in a Bar and someone serves you, it’s okay to consider leaving a small tip. Joining friends for aperitivo hour at a Bar in Italy? The same logic applies. A quick drink at the bar doesn’t come with an expectation of a tip. However, if you’re served free snacks at a table with your drinks, it’s okay to consider leaving a small tip. Small meaning the change from the bill (no more than a couple euros.) If you don’t, there is no reason to feel guilty, many Italians don’t tip on either of these occasions. It’s really down to the level of service received and personal preferences.

For a taste of what a typical Italian bar looks like, check out this BBC video on why Italians are saying ‘No’ to takeaway coffee. The quick scene will help explain why standing at a bar in Italy rarely if ever calls for a tip. Note the wine glasses behind the bar where customers are taking their coffee!

Tipping at a Restaurant in Italy

From Agriturismo in Italy to the more traditional Ristorante the deep, rich history of Italian cuisine plays out in the countless types of eating establishments in Italy. There’s the Tavola Calda, Enoteca, Pizzeria, Pizza a Taglio, Taverna and a host of eria’s like Osteria, Pescaeria, and Roticceria just to name a few. It’s no wonder tipping in Italy feels confusing to first-time tourists.

When it comes to tipping in Italy, there is a difference between a formal Ristorante and the more humble eating establishments like a Trattoria as seen in the video below with Stanley Tucci.

The secret to feeling comfortable tipping in Italy lies in the level of service. Take “il Ristorante” which sits at the top of the Italian restaurant food chain. Ristorante typically means formal or fine dining. Multi-course meals, high-end service, and on occasion a famous chef. These are the types of eating establishments in Italy where tipping or servizio incluso (more on that in a minute) is seen more regularly, but rarely exceeds 10-15%.

In the more humble Trattoria, Pizzeria, Enoteca, or Taverna that lacks the fuss, a tip is typically no more than rounding up the bill or a euro per person. Regardless of the type of place, tipping is still at the discretion of the customer and should be based on the overall experience and personal preference.

No one is going to stop you from tipping more in Italy, but there really is no shame or guilt associated with tipping less than what’s traditional in America.

When Not to Leave a Tip in Italy

If servizio incluso (service included) shows up on the bill a service charge has already been factored into the bill as a tip. Check the menu for servizio before ordering to avoid surprises, and the bill for servizio before leaving a tip. Even Italians will tip beyond servizio incluso if they want to go out of their way to thank the restaurant owner or servers. Even then, we’re talking a couple more euros.

Servizio should not be confused for Coperto which is common on bills in Italy. Servizio inclusio is similar to a tip, while Coperto is not.

There is no expectation of a tip in Italy at a Gelateria (ice cream shop) Pizza a taglio (pizza by the slice), Rosticceria (roasted meats), Paninoteca (sandwich shop) or any establishment where food is taken to-go. Feeling generous anyway? Look for a tip jar but don’t be surprised if there isn’t one.

Outside of food, tipping taxi drivers is not customary in Italy. However, since hotels are most commonly booked by tipping tourists a euro for help with your bags or housecleaning is appreciated, but again not expected in Italy.

Culturally, tipping in Italy is a matter of personal choice and left up to the discretion of the customer. No matter if you hate tipping and wish it wasn’t a thing, are a merit-based tipper, or are an over-the-top tipper, these general tipping in Italy guidelines will help you fit in and tip (or not) like an Italian.

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References

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