Monday, 28 January 2013

Is it customary to leave a tip in Italy?

Many visitors to Italy, particularly our friends from America, where tipping is customary, are concerned to know the answer to the question "Is it customary to leave a tip in Italy?". Or to put it plainly, "should I leave a tip in Italy?"

The answer is simple: in almost all cases you do not give a tip to anyone in Italy. This applies to restaurants in particular since that's the most likely venue where tipping might be expected. The only possible exception to the no tipping rule might be at the end of a minibus tour, the reason being that these tours are taken almost exclusively by tourists and the drivers have become accustomed to receiving a tip. I have to add, that taking into account how expensive these tours are, a tip should not be expected and if given should not exceed 5% at the most.

Is it customary to leave a tip in Italy?
Is it customary to leave a tip in Italy?
So why do we not tip the waiter in an Italian restaurant? The reason is simply that tourism sector workers are employees or family members who are paid a proper wage, receive paid vacation time, pension contributions and medical coverage just like the workers in any other sector of the Italian economy. They do not depend on tips to get through life. Incidentally, they are also much longer term employees than in many other countries - being a waiter is a perfectly respectable profession here in Italy and many people are waiters for their entire working lives. The same tipping rule applies to taxi drivers. At the most, you might want to round up the bill by a couple of euros.

An additional reason that tipping is not expected in Italy is that some restaurants add a fixed percentage "service charge" to your bill - usually 10%. This is effectively a mandatory tip although how it can be justified is hard to fathom. It would be the height of absurdity to leave an additional tip in a case like that. By the way, village and country trattorie, where most of the custom comes from local people, do not add a service charge to their bills. This practice seems to be confined to restaurants that cater mainly to tourists.

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