Tipping in Italy: When To Do and How Much to Leave
Unlike the United States and other countries, tipping in Italy is not really part of the culture. Leaving a tip in an Italian establishment is usually reserved for when you have received exceptional service. Tipping in Italy is neither mandatory nor expected, but if you do decide to tip, the gesture is a very clear indicator that you appreciated the service provided.
While some service providers such as taxi drivers don’t expect a tip – and may be surprised to receive one – others will certainly appreciate the compliment. The issue oftentimes for tourists is to decide what gratuity to leave for a certain service or circumstance. Each situation and environment has different expectations and it is important to be aware of them to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation.
When eating and drinking out, a tip is usually only left when the service is outstanding. Many places, especially the touristy spots, already charge a service fee and you are not expected to leave more money, so it is important to check the bill before deciding to tip or not (many restaurants will include the phrase servizio incluso on the bill). When paying by credit card, make sure to have some cash if you intend to tip, since there is no way to indicate how much you are tipping on the bill.
Different dining situations also have different expectations regarding tipping. If you just have a shot of espresso and a cornetto while standing at a cafe counter, for example, tipping is not expected. If you decided to sit to enjoy your meal, leaving the small change from the bill is enough. The same rule applies for cocktails if you have ordered food or had table service along with your drinks. Otherwise, leaving a tip for the bartender is not a custom in Italy. Waiters in fancy restaurants, on the other hand, expect to receive a tip, but usually not more than 20 percent of the bill.
For hotel services, each type of work has a different ‘value’. Because housekeepers are usually not paid very well, it is common to tip at least 1 euro per day. This can be done daily or at the end of the stay, but it is important to give the money directly to the cleaning workers, so that it is clear that it is specifically for them. On the other hand, concierges should be tipped according to the difficulty of the task they performed for you. Regular services with easy information access are worth less than services in which the worker really puts in extra effort to assure your experience is the best –although no more than 10 euros is expected, regardless of the task. Other assisting services, such as doormen and bellhops, can be tipped a small amount, no more than 5 euros. The amount can vary according to how many suitcases were carried or the frequency with which they arrange a cab or other services for you.
The only service provider who will definitely expect a tip is the tour guide. You should tip these guides because that money is their main source of income. The amount will vary based on how personal your tour was, the size of your group and the length of your excursion. Because tour guides rely on the money they get from tips to live, this practice is very common. In the tourism industry, tipping shows how much you appreciate a service, so it is nice to let your tour guide know how your experience was through a gratuity.
Tipping is not expected for personal services such as spa treatments, haircuts or beauty salon services. As always, if the service is extraordinary, then you can leave a cash tip in the amount of 10 percent of the total cost.