Ah Italy. The magical promise land where tipping doesn’t exist, your bill is exactly what you ordered off of the menu and there are no cultural obligations to give extra money for your meal. Unfortunately, the stereotype that tipping doesn’t exist in Italy has been spread across the world and Italian waiters now deal with increasingly demanding and disrespectful tourists. While tipping in Italy is different from other countries, especially the USA, there is a system you should know before visiting an Italian restaurant.
In both types of Italian bars (“bar” caffes and bars/pubs), it’s very uncommon to tip. Because the bills in these places are generally on the lower end, it’s not usually expected that you leave a tip. Whereas in the U.S., not tipping your barista could have negative consequences on your coffee order, especially if you’re getting anything more complicated than a cup of filtered coffee, i.e. triple shot soy mocha grande latte. A coffee at an Italian caffe will run you from 80 cents to €1.50 and tipping on that cheap of a bill seems extreme. This goes also for beers, wine and cocktails at bars or restaurants. Unless you’re getting table service at a club and spending over €100, a tip isn’t expected.
Restaurants (dishes being served)
On the other hand, if you’re at a restaurant, getting some sort of food dish, you’ll probably want to tip. Now hear me out: I know most guide books and even people living in Italy will tell you not to tip. If you don’t at a restaurant, you’re not a monster and it isn’t socially unacceptable. But if you leave even a euro for your waiter, you’re letting them know that you enjoyed your meal, the service was good and you respect their time and effort.
You should check if your bill includes a servizio (which is a service fee and thus covers tips) or a coperta (which is usually mandatory per table and has the same effect). If these are included on your bill, you might get away without leaving something extra. But if your restaurant was nice enough to only charge you for water and bread (two things that unfortunately are NOT free in Italy), consider leaving a small percentage on the table. An important thing to note: tips are split equally among all the waiters in the restaurant.
Tipping in Italy: not mandatory but certainly welcome
This post is not to say that anyone that previously has been skipping tips in Italy is a terrible person. Just a light reminder that sometimes it’s worth rewarding good services and experiences and that even a few extra euros goes a long way to the small salaries that waiters have in Italy. Where in the U.S., waiters are paid around $2/hr in anticipation of numerous cash tips, Italians get paid between €5 and €10 per hour with no tips. That means that your waiter could be working an eight hour shift, and making €40 for their entire day. Not always the reality but it happens more often than you’d think.
Have you ever left a tip while traveling here? Or do you believe that not tipping in Italy is a sacred right of tourists, not to be disturbed?