Tipping in Italy is like paying a good compliment. It’s never expected but always appreciated. Una mancia (pronounced oo-nah MAN-chah) means tip, as in gratuity in Italian. The fact that there is a word for “tip” in Italian means tipping is a thing in Italy.
Yet when asked, Italians themselves say tipping is not expected in Italy. Expected is the operative word because Italians do tip in Italy, just not very much.
If tipping is a cornerstone of acknowledgment for excellent service, what’s a tourist to do? Especially if you’re sitting in a restaurant in Italy for the first time googling “tipping in Italy” and need an answer quickly!
Tipping in Italy
Our guide to tipping in Italy answers the most common questions we get from friends coming to visit us from America. Use the links below to quickly jump ahead to the answer you need.
While decoding tipping in Italy is partly a personal preference, it helps to follow what local Italians naturally do. Something I’ve been observing for over a decade while traveling, and now living in Italy.
How Much We Tip As Italians In Italy
Most Italians tip no more than a euro or two at informal restaurants in Italy like pizzerias, trattorias, osteria, and the like. These are the everyday establishments Italians favor for day-to-day meals with local regionally specific cuisine.
Tipping beyond a few euros does happen in Italy. This is when where you are matters.
Tipping at a Formal Restaurant in Italy
The secret to feeling comfortable tipping in Italy lies in the level of service. For example, take “il Ristorante” (the formal Restaurant).
Formal restaurants sit at the top of the restaurant food chain in Italy. They offer fine dining with multi-course meals, high-end service, and on occasion, a famous chef.
Tipping at a formal restaurant in Italy is a way to express appreciation for fine food or service, but locals rarely go beyond 10-12%. Leaving a few extra euros is still perfectly acceptable.
Regardless of the type of place, tipping is still at your discretion in Italy.
Tipping at a Bar in Italy
Bars in Italy serve coffee, sandwiches, and aperitivos because they are often open all day. They are also a convenient stop for pastries, gelato, scratch-off lottery tickets, and bottled water.
Consequently, Italians are as likely to start their day as to end it at a bar.
In the morning Italians typically stop at a bar for an espresso on the way to work. Throughout the day, we stop at bars for breaks. The Italian bar culture is also a standing one. This means we stand at the bar to quickly enjoy our espresso.
Why? It’s cheaper to stand because there is no expectation of a tip at the counter. The same goes for anything purchased to go.
In Italy, tipping depends on two main factors. The first is where you are. Meaning bar or restaurant, sitting or standing. Where answers if you should tip or not.
The second factor is purely discretional. How ordinary or extraordinary the service received is. This will help you determine how much to tip in Italy.
Let’s dig into those variables a bit, starting with the where.
Sitting vs. Standing at a Bar in Italy and Tipping
However, a small tip is polite if you sit at a table and someone comes over to serve you.
Joining friends for aperitivo 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 normal to leave a small tip. Customarily the change from the bill (no more than a couple of euros) will do.
If you don’t, there is no reason to feel guilty. Many Italians don’t tip on either of these occasions. For a taste of what a typical Italian bar looks like, check out this BBC video.
Why Tipping is Different in Italy
If you’re accustomed to tipping 15% – 20%, not leaving a tip in Italy might feel downright stingy. Tipping in Italy is culturally not the same as it is in North America for two reasons. First is wages.
Tips Do Not Make Up a Part of the Salary for Waiters in Italy
In America, tips are expected to make up a large portion of a waiter’s wage. This is not the case in Italy. Tips are not expected to make up small hourly wages.
Culturally, the restaurant business in Italy is very different from that in America. Many restaurants in Italy are family-owned. So being a waiter is considered a respected life-long career that comes with a living wage.
It’s always fun to point this out to our friends and family when they come to visit. At first, they don’t notice it, but once we note the restaurants we’re taking our guests to are family-owned, they start to pick up the differences. Like the fact that the waiters are adults, not teenagers.
Italian Wages Have Not Increased in Years
Furthermore, Italy has one of the oldest populations in the world. Many Italian families hear stories about being poor after the war around the dinner table. Together these factors have impacted Italian culture around tipping. Leaving a tip requires disposable income, which many Italian families did not have.
Since Italy is the only European country where wages have fallen since 1990, it’s unlikely the tipping culture in Italy will change anytime soon.
How to Tip in Italy
In America, it’s not uncommon to leave cash for the bill and tip on the table and simply walk out. Italians rarely, if ever, do the same thing in Italy.
Ask for the Check
First, in Italy, you’ll need to ask for the check. It’s actually considered rude to drop the check off at the table without the customer asking because it’s taken as a sign of rushing someone along. Italians don’t rush meals and most certainly not guests.
Tip in Euros When You Pay the Bill
Since waiters are not always tipped in Italy, checking the table after customers leave is 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 is handled personally.
Say “Grazie” When You Tip in Italy
To express gratitude for exceptional service, hand the tip to the waiter, preferably in a tray or the holder the restaurant delivers the bill in. Make eye contact and say “Grazie.” (thank you in Italian).
Why Italians Don’t Put Money in Each Other’s Hands
As a new Italian citizen, I learned this lesson the hard way. Thus I wanted to share the story with you so you don’t have to be embarrassed like I was.
Historically in Italy, placing money directly into someone’s hand was associated with begging.
Hence Italians do not place money directly in each other’s hands. Instead, what you will see in restaurants, bars, and even grocery stores are small trays where receipts and money are placed to be evenly exchanged.
If you are handed change after paying a bill in Italy, typically it will be placed on top of a receipt or coins on top of bills.
Do Not Expect to Add Tips to Credit Card Charges
There are two ways to pay by credit card in Italy. At la cassa (the cashier) or at the table. When paying at the table the waiter will bring a credit card machine to the table. Unfortunately, neither option comes with the ability to add a tip to the credit card charge.
So always carry a stash of euros in Italy to be able to leave a tip, even when paying by credit card.
When Not to Tip in Italy
There is no expectation of a tip in Italy at a Gelateria (ice cream shop). The same goes for all food-to-go establishments. Places like Pizza a taglio (pizza by the slice). Rosticceria (roasted meats). Paninoteca (sandwich shop).
Feeling generous anyway? Look for a tip jar. If there isn’t one, our tip is not to feel guilty about just saying “Grazie” before you leave.
Outside of food, tipping taxi drivers is not customary in Italy.
Servizio Incluso Means the Tip is Included
If you see servizio incluso (service included) on the bill, don’t tip. The restaurant has already added gratuity to the final cost. Check the menu for servizio before ordering and the final bill before leaving a tip.
Italians will tip beyond servizio if they are regular customers who become friendly with the staff or owners. Even then, we’re still only talking about a couple more euros.
Servizio should not be confused for Coperto which is common on bills in Italy.
Tipping in Hotels in Italy
Tourists set the tone in hotels in Italy. Thus tipping at hotels is customary if you get help with your bags or receive outstanding housecleaning, tip a euro or two.
Final Thoughts on Tipping in Italy
From Agriturismo to traditional Ristorante the rich history of Italian cuisine comes in many forms. Tavola Calda, Enoteca, Pizzeria, Pizza a Taglio, Taverna Osteria, Pescaeria, and Roticceria just to name a few. It’s no wonder tipping in Italy feels confusing to first-time tourists. I love how Stanley Tucci sums it all up in the video below.
At the end of the day, no one will stop you from tipping more in Italy. Still, we recommend leaving the shame or guilt associated with tipping less at home.
Instead, think of tipping in Italy as a balance between the Italian culture and your personal preference.
To sum it all up, culturally, tipping in Italy is a matter of personal choice. Use your discretion and these general tipping in Italy guidelines, and you’ll tip (or not) just like an Italian.
There is a reason we are confident in the information we share about traveling in Italy. We are Paolo and Brandy, co-owners of ALOR Italy and dual American Italian citizens living in Italy. Together, we’ve traveled extensively throughout Italy since 2011. We also have almost 100 years of combined experience eating pizza in Italy, but who’s counting?
Born and raised in Italy, Paolo received a degree in Business and Economics from the University of Torino and studied cinematography in Rome before becoming a professional photographer and published author.
Born in Iowa, Brandy received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communications from The Ohio State University before becoming an Executive Producer in New York City, working for brands like Food Network, Discovery, InStyle, and HBO.
We co-founded ALOR Consulting in 2013. Our clients have included Hilton Hotels, Provenance Hotels, and dozens of restaurants, spirits, and brewery clients in the hospitality, food, and beverage industry.
2019 marked the beginning of our journey toward early retirement when we moved to Italy. Now, we travel to Italy’s popular destinations and off-the-beaten-path gems from our home base in the Italian Alps.
Our motto is Live Italian because the secret to la dolce vita is having an Italian lifestyle mindset. Once you experience a slower pace of life in Italy, you can connect to that feeling and live Italian anywhere in the world.
ALOR Italy is Two Introverts Guide to Italy. We share tips to help you avoid crowds and save money on your next trip to Italy. Subscribe via email for a taste of la Dolce Vita in your inbox.
- Tipping 101: When to Tip in Italy and How Much Money to Leave — AFAR Magazine