In 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his bride dined at two restaurants in central Rome. They didn't leave a tip at either one. The next morning the billionaire couple's snub was splashed all over the front pages of Italian newspapers. A public outcry ensued, but a lot of people may have thought to themselves, "What's all the fuss? Everyone knows you don't tip in Italy!"
Or do you?
Confusion surrounding leaving a tip (la mancia) in Italy is nothing new. The best thing you can do is prepare yourself ahead of time by reading up on Italian customs and social etiquette. And knowing Italy's expectations when it comes to tipping can help you avoid embarrassing situations, or even keep you from creating another international incident.
Tips on Tipping in Italy
Due largely to mass tourism (particularly from the U.S., where tipping is the norm), attitudes in Italy about gratuities are changing. But what was true in this country 20 years ago is still true today: you don't need to tip in Italy. Why? One primary reason is that Italian workers are paid a monthly salary for their work — in contrast to food service personnel in the U.S. who are paid a reduced hourly wage in lieu of tips. It's not as if Italians never tip, it's just that they do it less obligatorily and in much more modest amounts.
So before reaching into your pocketbook at dinner or pulling out your wallet in the cab, check out our on when, how and how much to tip (or not to tip) in Italy:
If you're having a proper sit-down meal in a restaurant, the rule of thumb for rewarding good service is to leave the waitstaff about €1 per diner. Often a party will just round up the check by a few euros, say, for instance leaving €55 for a €52 check. If you want to tip more than that, you still don't need to leave more than 10 percent of the total check. Tips of 15-20 percent, while standard in U.S. restaurants, are just unheard of in Italy. And remember, for really lousy or indifferent service, you should leave niente (nothing).
If you're having an espresso at the counter of a coffee bar, it's perfectly okay to leave behind the extra change (usually a .10 or .20 coin will suffice). For table service, you may be charged a "service fee" for sitting down (predominately found in tourist areas). In that case, tipping is not necessary.
The "rule" here is to leave somewhere between nothing and a euro or two. If your driver is especially friendly or offers to lug your bags up the stairs, then a few euros is a standard tip. Do keep in mind that there could be a surcharge added onto your fare for each piece of luggage, which is perfectly legal. For a regular cab ride within the city limits, you can simply round up to the nearest .50 cent or €1, if you want.
At full-service hotels, staff should be tipped as follows:
- Porter: €1 per bag.
- Housekeeper: €1 a day.
- Valet and concierge: €1 to €2.
It's not required, but these days it has become quite commonplace to tip your guide. If you're happy with the tour, giving your guide a few euros from each person in the group is fine.
Situations When Tipping Is Not Required:
- Grabbing a quick sandwich at a cafe.
- Mom and Pop businesses where it's obvious the people serving you are the owners of the establishment.
- When a check has servizio incluso (service included), the tip has already been added, so you don't need to leave anything more. That said, if you had especially good service, you can go ahead and leave a couple of extra euros.
Dos & Don'ts for Tipping in Italy
- Tip with cash, even when you're paying the bill with a credit card.
- If you want to tip one particular server, make sure the money gets into his or her hands – otherwise, he/she may never see it.
- Don't show off by overdoing it with tipping.
- Remember that in all but the most touristy piazzas, your waiter won't bring your check until you ask for it. You're not being ignored; it's just considered rude to present the check before the customer asks.
For every tourist or Italian you encounter who tells you there's no need to tip in Italy, you'll find another who will tell you that it's now the norm to leave a little something. Ultimately, tipping in Italy is about what you feel comfortable with. If you feel better leaving a tip and doing so isn't going to bust your vacation budget then by all means, leave a few euros to show your appreciation. We've yet to have a waiter or service-person refuse a tip in Italy!