Your Tipping In Rome Travel Guide For Americans In Italy

Tipping in Rome is very different for Americans so be aware of how a tip in Italy might already be included in your bill before you are even ready to pay.

Tipping In Rome - The Bill

Here Comes The Bill

Do You Tip 20% In Italy?

Over the years, I’ve heard and repeated the idea that tipping isn’t necessary in Italy. It was described as a cultural difference between the US and Europe where wait staff, for example, are paid a living wage and as such, tipping isn’t expected. In the US, however, the waiters and waitresses are expected to survive on a sub-minimum wage and because of this, you really need to add the extra 20% if everything went well.

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Like most commonly held beliefs, the reality is different, more nuanced and is in a continual state of flux. Also, my example above focuses on restaurant workers whose pay is different from the barista or the barber, so using such a broad brush is doing them a disservice. The tip (mancia) is not applied so consistently and is not followed by everyone, but to say it isn’t necessary would be wrong.

Some Background Of Tipping In Rome

I’ve read differing opinions on the culture of Italy and the origins of tipping, which either came from England or France, depending on who you believe. In either case, the Master-Serf or Aristocrat-Servant dynamic is consistent and informative. You were expected to throw a few extra bobs/shekels/bucks at your underpaid/unpaid helpers to demonstrate what a good person you were, instead of paying them an appropriate amount. This practice of tipping was imported from Europe to America in the 1850s and 1860s by Americans who wanted to seem aristocratic, important, well-off or simply just to show-off.

Is Tipping In Rome Expected?

Tipping In Rome- in Lieu of Tip

Three Cover Charges in Lieu of Tip

It is important to be aware of the various, and appropriate, ways that a type of gratuity can already be included in your bill before you are even ready to pay. This is important because receipts don’t have a line for a tip, so it isn’t just a matter of adding an extra amount onto the bill and if you want to leave a tip, you will need cash or coins.

Here are some line items on your receipt that you should be aware of:

  • Servizio – This is a  service charge on your receipt for large groups and should be considered the tip. This is similar to large groups in the US when a gratuity is already included and it is necessary to have this indicated on the menu, so take a look so you don’t tip twice.

  • Pane – This is literally for the bread and you can’t be charged for it unless you ask for or agree to it. The reason it should be considered the tip is because it is a little pricey and based on the number of diners. Recently, we went out to dinner in a group of 6 and there was a line item for €6 for pane. A little expensive when you consider how economical bread is, but this is because it is viewed as an element of the tip.

  • Coperto – I read a few articles about this and I was fascinated by how much this bothers Italians. The explanation is that this is a charge per person for the cost of provisioning your meal. In other words, it is for your plates, glasses, cutlery, tablecloth, napkins, etc. being cleaned and available for you. It can also include bread, but this isn’t cast in stone.

How Much Do You Tip In Rome, Italy?

Tipping In Rome - Pane and Servizio

Pane and Servizio in Lieu of a Tip

Beyond these possible charges, you should feel comfortable leaving additional coins or bills for your wait staff in the event you had an amazing dinner and are still glowing from the wine, caffè and dolce, which is pretty likely.

Here is an anecdote that I enjoy telling: We were in a small town in Sicily in the 90’s and we dropped into a small pizzeria near our hotel for dinner. We were early and had a ton of trouble with the language but we managed through the delicious meal. I understood a little about the tipping culture, but we decided to leave 20% extra because we enjoyed ourselves and we wanted to share that feeling.

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I wasn’t trying to be a bigshot or anything like that, I just quietly left it as usual. The next night, we returned to the same place for dinner and the experience was shocking. They brought out a lot of wine, extra antipasti and were waiting on our every need. I believe they remembered our tip from the night previous and wanted to show their appreciation and grease the skids for another good tip. It was really fun and demonstrated clearly that the staff does appreciate the tip, even if it isn’t expected or required, so if you want to, don’t hold back.

Do You Tip In Rome For Coffee?

Tipping your barista at the coffee bars in Italy isn’t usually done. There are some workflow elements here that you will need to consider. For example, usually you are expected to pay for your espresso at the Cassa before going to the bar. You then take your receipt with you and show it to the Barista, they then make your espresso and leave you alone. You wouldn’t tip the Cassiere and money isn’t involved at the bar, so while it’s always possible to tip, this interaction can be a little awkward. If you sit down and you receive table service, leaving a couple euro coins is appreciated but also starts being more like tipping in a restaurant as I described above.

Tipping In Rome For Taxi Drivers

This gets a little more tricky, but in general, you can tip your cab driver but it is neither expected nor common. You should plan to tip if they are extra helpful, like acting as a tour guide and pointing out some historical sites as you drive to your destination. You should also consider tipping if they are helpful with your bags. It will be appreciated. A new challenge with tipping is with the app used for taxis in Italy. You can tip ahead of time, but since everything is prepaid, like with other ride-sharing applications, you would only be able to tip them prior to the service, which I don’t care for.

Tipping In Rome - Bread Charge

Bread Charge Per Person

Tipping In Rome Guide For Porters

I might be a little cheap here, but I’ve read that the expectation is similar in Italy as it is in the US. If you have them carry your luggage, then a good tip is €1 per bag. That said, if they are hauling your bags around the bridges in Venice or up the stairs in Positano, you might bump that up a few euros.

Things To Know Before Going To Italy

Tipping in Rome is different, so I think the best rule of thumb here is if you have terrific service and you want to show your appreciation with a tip, then do it. It is always appreciated even if it isn’t expected. If you are interested in more information about Italian culture, check out these posts:

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