HOW TO TIP IN ITALY
In the U.S. tipping is customary and expected for everything from lackluster to outstanding service. It is an etiquette which is ingrained in all trades, from wait staff at restaurants to our baristas, valets, cab drivers, porters, and many more trades. In Europe tipping is not as habitual, and in Italy and is not always expected. This can leave some travelers confused. In Italy, tipping is a kind gesture and appropriate in some situations. Italians will frequently refuse tips at first, but if you are truly impressed by the service, be a little persistent and most will kindly acquiesce.
This guide attempts to cover most situations that you, as a tourist, will encounter. Hopefully using these `tips` will provide a smooth experience when interacting with locals in restaurants, bars, hotels, tour operators, and taxis.
The currency of Italy is the Euro (€). US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for Euros upon arrival. In our culture we can put everything on credit and debit cards, however, in Europe you will find it useful to always keep a little cash on hand. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the country.Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars: When should I tip? How much is customary?
First thing is first: Tipping varies throughout different parts of Italy. With that being said, another important factor to be aware of is that most restaurants charge either a `Servizio` or `Coperto` (alt: `Pane e Coperto`), or both. The `Servizio` is a service charge and is NOT considered a tip. This is most common in tourist heavy areas; Rome, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi Coast. It is perfectly legal and MUST be stated on the menu. If, by chance, a server tells you that service is not included, check your menu thoroughly (even the smallest print!). The `Coperto` is much more common throughout Italy, and is the charge for the tablecloth, silverware, plates, and bread service. This charge was officially banned by the Lazio region in 2006 but remains common practice in the remainder of Italy. In either case, the charge amounts to very little (typically €1 to €3), but always check your menu and the bill meticulously.
Now, as far as the actual tip, it is generally not expected nor required. The servizio and coperto help to pay the servers a very decent wage, in fact, most are on salary, unheard of in the U.S. Again, tipping is most common in the largest tourist areas, as a direct result of American tourists carrying their own customs abroad. When so inclined to tip, the most common practice is to tell the server `tenga il resto,` or keep the change. This is especially true if the restaurant does not add a servizio. As an example, if your bill totals €18, give them €20 and call it a day! Sometimes, if keeping the change is not mentioned, you may not receive any change, because it is assumed the change can be kept. If, or when, this happens, don`t leave a tip!
For exceptional service, 10% is more than admirable, and do not be surprised if you receive a bit of push-back from your server. Politely insist as a thank you for their wonderful service.
In cafes and bars tipping is also at the customers discretion, although it will likely win you favor with the person taking your order. €1 or €2 per round of drinks, or €1 for a coffee order will generally expedite service and result in a more friendly and enthusiastic server. Just be sure to tip while placing your order to get their attention!
Be cautious and courteous: Is it possible to offend someone by leaving a tip?
In short, yes. While this is highly unlikely in the larger cities where tourists abound, in smaller or rural areas of Italy you may offend someone by leaving a tip. Why, you may wonder, would this generous act upset someone? In these smaller areas most establishments are family owned and operated. The business is their livelihood and something in which they take great pride. Your server could well be the owner, or one of their children, and a tip is seen as an allusion to their financial well being. You do not want to create the impression that you believe they are poor and in need your few extra Euros. Truthfully, even the most rural business owners are aware of foreigner`s tendencies towards tipping, but politely ask if you may do so.
The practice of tipping is more common in Italian hotels. In most hotels a service charge is included in the bill for staff, however, Porters, Concierge staff, Chambermaids, Valets, and Restroom Attendants all appreciate the generosity of guests.
Beginning with the Valet, if you have a rental car, an appropriate tip is no more than 1 Euro. If a Porter helps to carry your bag(s) to your room the customary tip is €1 or €2 per bag, usually no more than €5 total. Hotel Concierge staff can be very helpful for first time travelers; they are a wealth of information from directions to restaurant suggestions and reservations. Tip them €1 or €2 accordingly for their helpful service. For Chambermaids in moderate hotels a €1 tip, daily, is adequate; while in deluxe hotels €2-3 daily is more suitable. Follow the same rules for tipping Room Service staff as you would a server in a restaurant, round up the bill by a few Euros and let them keep the change; alternately, if you charge your room service order to your hotel bill, give the Room Service carrier no more than €2-€3. In very upscale hotels (and some nicer restaurants) there are Restroom Attendants, and it is polite to leave them €0.50. In most hotels, service charges are already included in your bill but for bell staff.
Tipping cab drivers is unusual, but appreciated, especially if they help you with your luggage or provide you with useful info about getting around in that particular place. In Italy you can tip your cab driver, but it isn`t expected nor is it common. Feel free to tip if they are extra helpful, they will appreciate it. Always remember when travelling abroad that it is good practice to agree on a final fare before the cab driver begins driving.Tour Guides: Is a tip required?
Tipping tour guides is very much appreciated but not expected. Common practice is in the range of €5 for half a day, or €10 for a full day, per person. Although most tour operators include a `tip` in quoted prices bear in mind that the guides are often paid a low wage, so if one if particularly enthusiastic or informative do not hesitate to slip them a little extra if you wish!Miscellaneous: Is there anyone I should tip that I would not normally?
Gondoliers in Venice: Gondola rides in Venice are already pricey and a tip above and beyond the cost of your ride is entirely at your discretion. Depending on the quality of the journey, the knowledge the gondolier exhibits, and if he educates you on certain points of interest and/or provides entertainment (singing) during your ride should factor into your decision making. An additional €5 is more than sufficient, certainly no more than €10 if the Gondolier is stellar.
Other Services: In the event that you are in Italy for a special occasion (wedding, honeymoon, graduation gift, birthday, etc..) and employ the services of a hairdresser, make-up artist, party planner, personal shopper, tailor or spa services and the like, use your best judgment in tipping. Factor in the cost and quality of service and, as a general rule, stay in the 10% range.
Remember that it is perfectly okay to abstain, especially if you are not happy with the service provided. Unlike in the U.S., waiters are paid a living wage, and the expectations for tipping are lower in Italy than in America. This is also true for hotel staff, though if you encounter a problem with the service within the hotel, we highly recommend speaking with the manager.
When paying for services in cash (which we generally recommend for services other than your hotel) remember to take your receipt. This is important for two reasons; If you leave a tip on a credit card, the person providing the service may not always get it, and if there is a discrepancy it is important to have your receipt to settle it with the manager of the establishment and to prove that you paid for the service.