Ask any Italian when he or she leaves a tip and you’ll inevitably receive the same answer: “Quasi mai” (“almost never”). As a rule, Italy is similar to other European countries: You generally aren’t expected to leave a tip unless you’ve received a special service. In fact, it is actually illegal to ask for a tip in Italy.
One of my American friends who has lived in Italy since 1998 lamented that Americans tend to tip too much. “They make it so the Italians don’t want to serve anyone but Americans.” Two of my Italian friends also complained, saying, “The problem is when employers think their employees are getting tipped, they lower their salary.”
These days, I tend to leave a little something wherever I go, considering that the COVID lockdowns forced 45,000 bars and restaurants to permanently shut down, and now many places are struggling with excessively high energy costs.
Here are a few rules of thumb to consider when tipping in Italy.
1. Tip Only In Cash
Unlike in the United States, you cannot add a tip to your bill when paying with a credit or bank card. You need to be ready to leave any tip in cash. You can leave your tip at the cash register when you are paying the bill, on the restaurant table under your glass or coffee cup, or inside the bill holder. It is always best not to leave any money too visible and not to leave the full amount for the meal on the table, especially at a busy or outdoor restaurant.
2. Restaurant Bill Charges
Restaurants are where most Italians leave a nominal tip, especially when dining in large numbers. Typically, they round up the bill to the nearest €10. For example, if the bill comes to €77, you could leave €80. This nominal tip (by American standards) is because the tip is usually included in the bill, along with a few other charges that you may not be familiar with.
Coperto (Cover Charge)
The coperto should be clearly stated on the menu and ranges from €1–€3 per person. Take note that the coperto is not a tip, instead it “covers” the restaurant’s cost for anything you see on the table, like the tablecloth, napkins, plates, utensils, salt, and olive oil. However, in Rome and many regions such as Lombardy, this fee has been outlawed, along with the pane fee below.
If you do not see a service charge for a coperto, you are likely to see one for pane, which is the service charge for bread. This will usually be €1–€2. Even if you don’t eat bread or are allergic to gluten and simply can’t eat it, do not try to refuse this fee as it is considered rude to do so.
Servizio (Service Charge)
The servizio charge on your bill usually runs 15–20 percent and it’s where the tip fee is included. If the servizio is included, you’re already tipping, so there is no need to leave any extra money, unless you have received special attention. Restaurants are obliged to indicate the servizio cost on the menu.
3. How Much To Tip In A Restaurant
If you’ve had a delicious and enjoyable meal with an attentive and friendly waiter, then by all means, leave a small tip. As I said earlier, Italians typically round up the final bill to the nearest €10. If the service was below par and the meal was just okay, then don’t feel obliged to leave any tip. It’s really up to you and your own personal experience.
Pro Tip: Beware! Do not push money into a waiter’s hand or slip money into a waitress’s pocket! These acts are considered embarrassingly rude! Just leave the cash on the table (under a glass or coffee cup, or in the bill holder). Or you can leave the cash tip at the register when paying the final bill.
4. How Much To Tip At A Bar
Tipping at a bar depends on if you’re standing or sitting. If you have your drink while standing at the bar, you are not charged a service fee. But if you sit down and drink something, then you are, and the tip is automatically included. The rules for leaving a tip are the same as you would at a restaurant… rounding up to the nearest €1 for great service.
Many bars and cafés have tip jars near the register where you can leave €0.10–€0.50. These tips are shared amongst all the workers. I asked my local barista how much he typically earns a day in tips. He said, after splitting the coins in the tip jar with his coworkers, he was lucky to bring home €1.
A Jar For Caffè Sospeso
You might also see a jar at the bar marked “caffè sospeso,” which means “suspended coffee.” When you order a caffè sospeso, you buy two coffees but only receive one. The other is for a person who might come into the bar and need a free coffee. This tradition started in Naples in the early 1910s. Sometimes you can leave a “tip” here as well.
5. How Much To Tip Your Taxi Driver
While leaving a small tip at a restaurant or bar is not that unusual in Italy, tipping your taxi driver isn’t so common. While you aren’t expected to tip your driver, it’s always a good idea to agree with the driver on the cost before beginning your journey. If the driver helps you with your bag(s), you should consider giving a tip of €1 per bag.
If you want to pay for your ride with a credit card, be sure to ask the cab driver if they accept credit. Some do, some don’t, and some will tell you they don’t and then pull their credit card machine out of their glove compartment if you tell them you don’t have cash.
Pro Tip: Make sure you look for the taxi stand when you need a ride. Taxi drivers aren’t supposed to pick you up if you hail them down, and you will likely pay more if you hail a cab versus grabbing one at the taxi stand.
Also note that while Uber does operate in bigger cities like Rome and Milan, it is not available everywhere. Only Uber Black is available, which means higher prices than a normal taxi. Lyft does not operate in Italy.
6. Tipping At Your Hotel
Like everywhere else in Italy, tipping your hotel concierge is appreciated, but not required. Tips are absolutely not expected at rented apartments and guesthouses, although tips are appreciated at bed and breakfasts. Here are some general tips for tipping at a hotel in Italy:
- Tip a porter who carries your luggage €1 per bag.
- Tip the concierge or bed and breakfast owner when they have assisted you during your stay. For example, they might book tickets for you or recommend restaurants or a tour guide. Also leave a tip if you happen to leave your bags at the hotel after checking out of your room. Tip between €5 and €10, depending on the assistance provided.
- Tip the cleaning staff €2 per day as a sign of appreciation. For longer stays, you might want to leave the tip more regularly rather than the total amount at the end of your stay.
While staying at a major hotel near the Rome airport, my American friends gave their hotel waiter a €5 tip after he left them abundant snacks alongside their aperitivo. A year later, they were back at the same hotel enjoying the afternoon happy hour when the white wine ran out. When they asked for a glass, the same waiter ran back into the kitchen and returned with a whole bottle of wine and extra food. “Do you remember me?” he asked. “I remember you!” Afterwards, my friends couldn’t resist leaving an even more generous tip of €10.
7. How Much To Tip Your Hairdresser, Barber, Or Masseuse
Tipping your hairdresser, barber, or masseuse is similar to tipping your restaurant waiter: It’s not obligatory. The service fee is included in the bill, but if your experience is special, you can leave €2–€5, depending on the overall cost. If tips are encouraged, there is usually a tip jar near the register.
8. How Much To Tip Your Tour Guide
Like waiters, tour guides aren’t expecting you to tip, but if you’ve really enjoyed the tour, then consider giving the guide €5 for a half-day tour and €10 for a full-day tour. Keep in mind that guides working for a company are frequently paid only a minimal hourly wage; while a licensed, independent guide receives your full tour fee.
You might also like to offer a tip of €5–€10 to volunteer guides who offer free tours.
However, keep in mind that, like at a restaurant, the tip you leave depends on your satisfaction with the experience and the service you received. For instance, if the guide shows you around a city all day, while also telling you the best places to eat, definitely consider offering a tip.
Bonus: Sometimes Tipping In Italy Works Backwards!
This might seem strange to Americans, but sometimes the person offering the service tips the customer! I have often had my restaurant bill rounded down to the nearest €10 by the owner, especially after exchanging a little chat about the area or business. These few euros are a way of building goodwill between the owner and customer. Other times, my husband and I have been offered a free coffee or liquor. It’s amazing how little it takes to make someone happy!
Italians have a talent for presentation and service, helping you feel at home and, at the same time, like a queen or king. While tipping rules are not so clearly defined, they allow for the human touch wherever you go. It’s also a great opportunity to connect with the locals in a positive way.
If you’re thinking about a trip to Italy, check out these articles: