/How to Approach Tipping in Rome, Revised

How to Approach Tipping in Rome, Revised

It’s about that time. It’s been nearly a year since my last guide to tipping was published and what with the media frenzy surrounding the Zuckerbergs not tipping at Roman restaurants, now seemed like a good time to breach the subject again.

There are several schools of thought regarding tipping in Rome, but only one of these reflects the local culture. The truth is, you do not have to tip in Rome (or Italy for that matter). Don’t believe me? Let’s have my illustrious colleague Sara Rosso weigh in on this. In her post 10 Tourist Mistakes when Visiting Italy, she writes, “…you don’t need to tip in Italy. Really. Let me repeat that: you don’t need to tip in Italy.”

Still not convinced? Well, that is probably because not tipping feels wrong (that is, if you are American). I would venture to say that virtually every American reading this post has depended on 15-20% tips at some point in their lives to cover car payments, rent, personal expenses, and medical bills. Living off gratuity is a fact of life in the US. In Italy, it is not. Now to be fair, servers aren’t rolling in dough. They are paid relatively low wages (like many workers in Italy). The odds are, they don’t even get to keep most of the tips that are left for them.

But that doesn’t mean you should overcompensate by leaving tips as you would in the US. In fact, leaving a percentage tip, even as “little” as 10% sends a very bad message and perpetuates the idea that Americans are wasteful spenders who flash their money to show status. There is a reason the phrase “fare l’americano” (being an American wannabe) means, among other things, wasting money and hemorrhaging euros like drunken sailor.

So when you are in Rome, or Italy in general, here are some tips on how to approach tipping:

-You never have to tip. Trust me. Just observe the locals. Some tip and some do not.
-If the word “servizio” appears on your bill, you don’t need to leave anything else. You are already being charged extra for service.
-Leaving a euro or two per person is customary amongst local tippers. This is appropriate in most situations. If you go to a super nice place like Glass or La Pergola, feel free to leave a little bit more, but don’t go overboard. €20 on a €500 check at La Pergola is considered generous.
-Forget about percentages.

So the media needs to cut the Zuckerburgs some slack on the tipping front. They did their homework and followed the local customs. They should be severely punished, however, for eating at McDonalds. That’s something to get worked up about.

2017-02-17T15:18:00+00:00 June 1st, 2012|Categories: Culture, Gastronomic Traditions, Restaurants, Rome & Lazio, Rome Dining Advice|28 Comments


  1. Amanda @ Farsickness June 1, 2012 at 1:33 am - Reply

    I never tipped in Rome, and never had a problem. In fact, the few times I left the maybe 1 euro change I’d received on the table the servers came running after me telling me I’d forgotten my money.

  2. Sarah May June 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    The above has also happened to me. As a former server, though I can’t not leave a tip. Of course I know they have it better than servers in the States, so the €1 or €2 rule is a good one, but only for great service, OR at places where I am a regular and tipping has helped me out in the long run, such as with Giuseppe at Il Goccetto. LOVE HIM!! Eating at McDonalds ANYWAY in the world is not some I can forgive. What about people in Belgium rollin’ out of McD’s with fries next to a Flemish Fry place? WTF? Anyway, if servers are total jerks, I do not leave a cent.

  3. Sarah May June 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    P.S. I always slip money in their pockets to make sure they get the money.

  4. Sonny Hammond June 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    The most embarrassing thing about not tipping in Rome is dealing with your fellow expats’ disdain.

  5. Arlene Gibbs June 2, 2012 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    Hold up they ate at McDonalds? WTF?

  6. Arlene Gibbs June 2, 2012 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    there should be comma after “up”

  7. JP Kerhomunculus June 4, 2012 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Right. Okay. We’ve all read Sara Rosso’s opinion, et al… So for those of you that don’t want to tip, you have your unassailable justification, and can actively besmirch a cultural foible that I, as a knuckle-dragging American, carry with me wherever I go. See, while on vacation in Italy, I tip when I receive good (sometimes excellent!) service. It’s almost, just almost, like I’m saying “thank you very much for your hospitality, and thank you for having me, and I value your effort.” I have yet to have a recipient of my grotesque largess express contempt for my bourgeois, uncouth, ham-handed ignominiousness. Perhaps with the economic issues that they are having in Italy this year, the people that I tend to tip will finally have had enough with me and demand that I stop.

  8. Jillian in Italy June 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    I also have many discussions about tipping here in Italy with my North American visitors. I find the whole tipping thing almost embarasses some servers and makes everyone somewhat uncomfortable.

    Plus, the Italian restaurants have their “coperto” charge which can add up sometimes (a few local restos have a 5 euro per person coperto).

    And shame on the Zuckerbergs for eating at McD’s!

  9. Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) June 5, 2012 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Indeed! What’s the point of coming all the way here to eat the same shit they can eat at home?

  10. Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) June 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    If you’ll excuse my French…

  11. s June 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    great post, as always, K. i always leave €2-3 if i am at a place like Da Francesco or Il Goccetto. when at my fave hang outs/watering holes like Al Vino Al Vino, Remo or Il Bucatino- because i know them personally, i like to leave €5- but that is the exception to the rule. i was amazed when my parents’ friends visiting from DC were leaving 20% tips in Roman restos- i told them to stop, bec the servers and proprietors must have been smirking from behind the counter. plus, they were charging them coperto. pathetic. x s

  12. […] tip while he was here.  Another Rome friend and local food expert, Katie Parla, wrote a great blog post about this very topic and I wholeheartedly agree with her post and don’t really have much […]

  13. Tina July 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    I usually just round it up because it’s easier. 🙂
    If someone has really gone to special effort and has made an impression or if it’s a super nice place, I’ll tip.

  14. Emiko July 3, 2012 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Couldn’t agree more, Katie! And the same thing goes in Florence too, or any tourist-driven Italian city. There’s no need to tip and establishments shouldn’t expect tips just because of the diners’ nationality, they certainly don’t expect them from locals – save those euros for the public toilets that you have to pay for, parking and the overpriced bottles of water when you’re in the centro storico!

  15. http://tinyurl.com/primcurry40968 January 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    I personally believe this posting , “How to Approach
    Tipping in Rome, Revised | Parla Food”, fairly
    entertaining plus it ended up being a very good read.
    Many thanks-Vivian

  16. […] Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples In Italy, like many other European countries, tips are appreciated but not compulsory. In most restaurants, it’s polite to leave one to two euros per person. Tips are not required in taxis, hair salons, or hotels.  For an even deeper understanding, Katie Parla has a very thorough run-down on tipping customs in Italy. […]

  17. Chuck April 15, 2013 at 3:06 am - Reply

    This has been a helpful read, I’ll also agree,,,,, but!
    I’ve spent the last 5 days in Florence with friends that are more plugged into the local customs and they would not let me tip, yes it felt super weird. My fiancé and I then went to Rome where I have carried on my American ways and I have to say,,, the taxi drivers have been very nice when tipping a few extra euros and the waiter tonight who was excellent came outside, ran down the street after me and wanted to shake my hand and gave me a very grateful thank you for a 10 eruo tips on a 100 eruo meal. Could the tip culture be changing? I think so. But what do I know? I’m just a fat American that likes to waste money on gret service because it makes me look rich and gives me status. It’s been a wonderful visit, can’t wait to come back.

  18. Joshua October 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    On my recent, and very first, trip to Rome I had a very different experience with respect to tipping. A goodly percentage of the servers (close to 30-40% I would say) specifically mentioned to me that a gratuity was not, in fact, included with the bill. Based on this I habitually tipped my customary 20% and all of my service experiences were exemplary. Perhaps I was ‘hoodwinked’ by unscrupulous servers – I will let you judge. Personally I found the constant niggling charges for bread and water the most irksome experience about dining out. The Italians do many things well concerning cuisine; they do not touch the French when it comes to bread.

  19. Ida January 10, 2014 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Hey there!
    Thank you for your nice article on tipping. I went to Rome in 2010, and thought I had to tip. And seriously, I still get a nervous tummy feel of how rude I was treated on the restaurants in Rome. But oh, how I loved Rome. Best place ever. But once I went to a restaurant with another couple. We ordered the special 3 course meal for 20 euros each. And in the end me and my bf paid each 3 euros, in total 6 euros, and the other couple added 2 euros to that. That is 8 euros on an 80 euro bill. The waiter had seriously sucked up utill that moment. I call it that, because after he recieved the 8 euros, he went completely mad and rushed away in anger. And it was not because he was offended to get a tip. ooooh no, he was expecting to get it! He took the money with great joy and then opened his hand to count them, and after that, he did the huge “I’m so offended and angry” act out in a totally dramatic and innapropriate and EXTREMELY RUDE way. When we then stood up, and left and said goodbye and thank you in a very kind and modest smiling manner, he turned away with an offended sneeze noize. Seriously! I was so angry! to me that’s ALOT of money! 8 friggin euros! And this asshole I should have fought him to get those money back! I still get angry just thinking about it and this is obviously the worst experience I had of tipping in Rome, but the whole tipping scene was very very uncomfortable there. If you did not leave what they thought was enough you would get angry looks and we always left too much for our poor student pocket and still it was never enough to please those arrogant a-holes of waiters (we are not student living on our parents money, but normal students supporting ourselves with part timejobs on the side and therefore actually really only having a little to go by)
    But yes, I had a severely traumatizing experience of the servers and tipping in rome and was treated terribly even when tipping. They are the rudest I’ve ever encountered in my whole life, as a rutined traveller.
    So, now when I’m going back to Rome in februrary, it has left me with both exitement (because I LOOOVE Rome) but also with actual fear of anxiety over the whole tipping nightmare again that I have to go through. But this article has actual helped me alot! Because now, I will leave only a 1 or 2 euro coin after a meal, or none at all actually. – though I always hate not leaving a tip, but I hate more having left a good tip and then being trashed by the italian waiter. So if I’m going to get bad-vibe experiences leaving a dining place in Rome anyways, it might as well be for not leaving a tip.
    So thank you for this!
    Actually I’ve researched where to dine cheap, delicious and friendly in Rome already because I just can’t deal with similar experience there again the next time.
    So, will let you know how my new experience of following this article and not tipping in Rome will go! I leave on Feb 11th in a month! 😀

  20. […] It sends the wrong message. This is mostly for American visitors to Italy, since we’re so used to tipping a percentage all the time, but it may apply to other cultures, too. My friend Katie Parla notes that leaving percentage-based tips in Italy like you would at home can give Italians the impression that we’re “wasteful spenders who flash money to show status.” […]

  21. Hannah Rascj January 28, 2015 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    Thank you for a helpful post. I am currently in Rome discussibg tipping-rules on restaurants and hotels (with my better half), and luckily we have not tipped more than a couple of Euros on the places we have eaten, no fuss, happy waiters and all good experiences. We have now decided not to leave a tip for the hotel keeper. We are from Denmark, where tipping typically also is percentage-based (10%), so it was also helpful for us! On a thank-you note we can recommend “ROME – The little black book” which we used to eat, drink and dance ourselves through Rome. JUST GREAT!

  22. Hannah Rascj January 28, 2015 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    * ROME – The little black book
    A dining and entertainment guide by Erica Firpo and Christel Brenting

  23. Audrey Brown February 15, 2015 at 11:53 am - Reply

    I ran to the Internet looking for sympathy after the horrible and embarrassing experience we had in a restaurant in Rome last night. When the bill was presented to us (service charge included) at the bottom of the bill, just after the total, the waiter had neatly printed “TIPS” and added 20€ to the total. When I asked the waiters if that was customary since I had never seen that before, they all scampered away. After they had taken my money, I asked for a copy of the receipt, again they all scampered away. Finally the waiter came back with a newly printed receipt (no special tip added) and gave me back my 20€ and proceeded to rudely lecture me that he had to earn money too. I also have encountered waiter after waiter presenting the bill and informing me that tip was not included. And I am almost positive they only say that to Americans. I just want to get on a plane and get the heck out of here.

  24. Catherine July 16, 2015 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    How much would you suggest tipping on the “free” walking tours of Rome?

    • Katie July 20, 2015 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      no idea, maybe €10-15? i mean the quality is pretty low but i understand people have to make a living…

  25. Italygroup Specialists September 12, 2015 at 9:53 pm - Reply

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  26. Ambra November 14, 2016 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    This is not true! Tip is appreciated for high quality services and is based on duration/ quality of the service.

  27. Viaggiatore August 29, 2018 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    To all my American friends who feel extorted by Roman waiters expecting a fat tip, I suggest what even more and more Italians do: don’t pay to the waiter, but go to the counter and pay there. In this way you will also keep your credit card in your sight. Then I completely agree with Katie that we Italians just round up the check adding 1 or 2 euros, maybe 5 or 10 for the whole table if we had a really great service and some friends of mine even reproach to me even this! I personally then leave this tip in cash, either at the counter saying “per i camerieri” (for the waiters) or give it directly to my waiter or eventually go back to the table and leave it on there, when I tell my friends we can go. One more point: it’s true that “coperto” has been forbidden since 2006 in Lazio (regional law #21), but restaurants have replaced it with “pane” (bread). It can be annoying, but as Katie says, we have to live with it. Just be careful it could be doubled in case you get a refill, but this happens to us Italians too.

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