Tips for Tipping in Italy

Written by Katie Parla on April 15, 2024

Tipping in Italy | Katie Parla

If I had a euro for every time I overheard a server at a tourist trap drop a check and warn clients that “Service isn’t included,” I would be a wealthy woman. The truth is, service is included, but some businesses are always going to try to squeeze a little extra cash from their customers. 

There are several schools of thought regarding tipping in Rome, but only some of these reflect the local culture. For a long time, the generally accepted rule has been that you do not have to tip in Rome (or Italy for that matter). Don’t believe me? Let’s have my illustrious colleague Eugenio Signoroni, editor of Slow Food Osteria guides, weigh in on this: 

KP: Do you tip? 

Eugenio: No. 

KP: Never?

Eugenio: Not ever!

Of course, if you’re visiting from the U.S. especially, not tipping feels wrong. I would venture to say that virtually every American reading this post has depended on 15-25% 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 U.S. 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) and labor reforms have chipped away at benefits. The odds are, they don’t even get to keep most of the tips that are left for them.

That doesn’t mean you should overcompensate by leaving tips as grand as you would in the U.S. 

But more recently, tipping has started to be acknowledged as a more complex topic that depends on where you are, what kind of business it is, and sometimes more personal issues like how big your group is or your own relationship with the place itself. My general tips are as follows: 

Leaving a euro or two per person is customary amongst local tippers. This is appropriate in most situations, but see specific examples and exceptions. 

If you go to a super nice place like 3 Michelin star La Pergola, feel free to leave a little bit more, but don’t go overboard. 50 euros on a 500-euro check at a posh place is considered extremely generous.

Forget about percentages.

Bring coins or cash if you intend to tip; most venues don’t provide a tip line on the bill.

But to examine the various factors that affect tipping practices in more detail, I’ve asked Parla Tours guides, who live in Rome, how they approach tipping in this day and age.   

When and how much do you personally tip at restaurants?

Arianna: Tipping is not obligatory in the sense that those who serve do not demand a tip. My friends and I leave a tip for long services, such as a table of many people at a restaurant for dinner, or as a ‘gift’ to a very nice or very kind and attentive staff. 

Janaina: Typically, we’ll agree on leaving around 2 euros each. However, this is becoming less frequent due to the shift away from cash transactions.

Maria: Having been a waitress all through my college years, I tend to always leave something, especially at restaurants. Just a small amount (a couple of euros) is the standard, but I’ll leave more (5 to 10 euros) in sign of appreciation for a particularly good service or if my party is numerous. 

How do you interpret the “servizio” part of the bill? 

Maurizio: We tip whether or not we see “servizio” on the bill, as I consider this more to cover the basics of service (tablecloth, silverware, plates, etc.) as opposed to an extra something for the waitstaff. 

What about tipping in places other than restaurants? 

Maurizio: In bars it’s the typical 20 to 50 cents at the counter, and bar table service maybe 1 to 2 euros. Food delivery services, almost always 2 euros. Taxis, round up to the next euro.

Is there a perception that American visitors tip too much? What are a restaurant’s expectations typically? 

Maurizio: There is definitely the sense that they overtip, but perhaps no longer perceived as a negative thing. It seems many tourist-driven places have gotten used to it and indeed expect and enjoy this windfall and perhaps are annoyed if guests do not tip. Something I hate hearing but hear more often now when I’m with clients is the owner saying, “the tip is not included” when paying the bill, expecting [the clients] to shell out more in cash. They expect it more from tourists than from Romans, and from the elderly more than from the young, as well as from large groups more than from individuals. 

Maria: Leaving more is not badly perceived at all; I think waiters and staff don’t expect tips, especially from Italians and in local neighborhoods, but they appreciate a good tip when it comes. Americans are known for tipping well in a good way. I am afraid that sometimes people may take advantage of that, but never are offended.

Have the local practices of (non) tipping changed in the post-covid era? 

Maurizio: Since Covid, we’ve erred on the side of being generous, especially for restaurants that we revisit. As a family of three, we normally leave 5 to 10 euros. Instead, for restaurants we eat at for the first time, max 2 euros or sometimes nothing at all if we feel like the service was lacking or rude. 

Arianna: After Covid there is both more tourism and more recovery after the crisis in the [hospitality and dining] sector, and depending on where in Rome (more or less central, more or less touristy) there is [now] more a custom of tipping.

Maria: I don’t think Covid affected Romans’ practices; those who were used to tipping keep doing it, and those who weren’t, still don’t. The pay of waiting staff was not necessarily raised [after Covid] and that might have changed the perspective of people in the industry, who do expect tourists to tip and tip well. 

So there you have it: if you wish to follow local customs, tip conservatively. But know that no one is mad if you drop a few extra euro-bucks.

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