Tipping in Italy is one of the things that a lot of people planning to visit this beautiful country keep discussing over and over again. Everyone wants to know the reasonable amount they should leave on top of their bill at a restaurant not to lose their face and be in-line with the local traditions. Some say that the conventional 10 percent is the right thing to do. Others claim that tipping in Italy is not necessary at all.
Tipping in Italy Compared to US
In US consumer economy tipping is taken for granted. If you are satisfied with the service then you appreciate it with a tip. It’s that simple. This ideology is strongly supported by the media that plays a great role in defining your possible strategy for tipping in Italy. It does a really good job at telling people how they should act and spend.
There are so many stories where extravagant billionaires leave thousand dollar tips for meals worth a fraction of that generous gratitude. Remember that old story about Donald Trump tipping $10,000 after having his lunch for just $80? Even though it was later claimed to be a fake a lot of people believed it. It was just taken for granted. Then there was a story about Roman Abramovich tipping $5,000 on top of the already included $7,000 gratuity at the Nello’s in New York. Not a bad tip for a dinner that cost more than $40,000. Even Barak Obama is claimed to leave $20 each time he has a $2 beer at one his favorite bars.
Your strategy for tipping in Italy may seem to be so obvious after reading all these stories. Well, maybe not in terms of the overall amounts.. After all there is no reason why you should act differently than all these spoiled super stars and oligarchs:) ? But then you read about Mark Zuckerberg eating out with his wife at one of the central restaurants in Rome and leaving no tip at all. That’s where you should stop for a little bit and rethink your strategy.
Before making any conclusions let me tell you about my own experience of tipping in Italy. Several years ago we went to have a dinner at one of the small trattorias in the rural area near the town called Gavi in the north of Italy. It was one of these small family owned places where you had to pay for your meal at a small cashier’s desk instead of leaving the payment on the table for the waiter to take care of it. You can see that “coperto” is included in this bill already.
The trattoria was full of locals and we were the only foreigners. Everything was really good and we decided to tip 2 Euros on top of our 25 Euro meal. The waiter was running around the restaurant taking care of a great number of tables so I couldn’t get a chance to hand him that tip directly. We went to the cashier’s desk to pay our bill and ask about the best way we could tip our waiter. I could see the cashier was confused and couldn’t guide us with the possible solution right away. It was something unusual for them and he had to take a small time out to discuss it with one of his colleagues.
The thing is that no one was leaving any tips there. At the same time the waiters looked quite happy and did a great job serving their guests. The story ended with me finally catching our waiter between the tables in the main hall and handing him that 2 Euro coin. His face looked quite surprised at first but then it changed with a smile when he found out we were foreigners.
Generally speaking, the culture of tipping in Italy is very different from the US. The waiters have employment contracts with the restaurants that include fixed monthly salaries. The Italian economy is quite small comparing to US with its thriving consumer capitalism. There is less money circulating and the social benefits have always played a greater role than in US. So, talking about Italians they don’t leave any tips most of the times they go out.
On the other side there are many tourist areas in Italy. These areas have some rules that are different from the rest of the country. The waiters that work at the restaurants located in these tourist centers are used to the fact that all foreigners leave some money on top of their bills. Of course they get very frustrated when a person leaves without any tip. As you can see, tipping in Italy is something you should think about while planning your trip. I always prefer to tip one Euro when I’m satisfied with the service and food.
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