In yesterdays post Jewel asked me a very good question about tipping in Italy. Rather then answer it in the comments I have decided to answer it here as a lot of people may have been asking themselves this same question.
World wide there are different tipping 'guidelines.' As Jewel pointed out, and as most of us know from either visiting American, or watching movies it is expected to tip for pretty much everything and anything in the U.S. When I first visited New York I had no idea when or how much to tip. I remember someone opened the door to the apartment block and I thought 'well is this tip worthy?'
In Australia we do not have a tip policy. If you want to leave a tip for exceptional service or food then you can leave what ever you like. It is not expected but always welcomed.
Italy is pretty much the same as Australia in the fact that you do not have to tip. It is totally up to you.
When you dine out in Italy, or should I say main cities and tourist places then you need to be aware of the following:
Service or cover charge that you get charged in restaurants. Most restaurants in main cities will charge a fee, be it a 2 euro cover charge per person, or an extra percent service charge added to the bill. This must legally be stated on the menu, but sometimes they can be sly and put it somewhere not easy to find so that you don't realise until it's too late. There is no set cover charge fee, however in Rome it is normally about 2 euro per person. Technically this cover charge is like an already included tip.
In a lot of main cities you will also be charged for things you assume to be free. When the waiter leaves a basket of bread on the table most of the time there will be a fee which should be written on the menu, anything from 50 cents up per person (a lot of the time bread too can be 2 euro per person.)
Often restaurants will offer you an after dinner drink such as a limoncello or grappa. They may make it sound as if it is free, but it is not. If it is free they let you know by saying something like 'courtesy of the house.'
Not all restaurants charge you the extras, in small villages or less touristy places they would not dream of doing this. If they did no one would eat there! Here in Rome, Venice, Florence etc... they do not care to please locals as they can make more money from the ignorant tourist. I have been out for dinner with many Italians who come from small, non-tourist villages and they have been shocked that here you have to pay for bread, and for a cover charge.
When it comes to paying the bill make sure you look to see that no 'extras' have been added on. If you don't want to pay for the bread tell them to take it away. A lot of the time NO TIP is necessary as you have already paid a hefty cover charge. If you wish to tip on top of this then it is up to you. Some people (mostly only the tourists as Italians rarely tip) leave some spare change.
In hotels again tipping is not necessary but it is welcomed. There is no set rule. You can leave 1 euro or 100 euro. You can chose to leave a tip for the cleaners, the reception staff, the waiters. Most hotels share the tips, but as in every country some people are sly, so if there is someone in particular you feel has done a great job leave a sealed envelope directly with them, or their manager. If you think the hotel as a whole has been great then you can leave a tip and tell them it is for everyone. I would recommend leaving the tip in a sealed envelope as this way no one can see how much you are leaving, and it may help you feel less embarrassed if you are not sure about how much to leave. Let me state again however that no tip is expected. Each to there own. If you do not leave a tip no one will give you the evil eye, no one will chase you out of the hotel as no one expects is, they only appreciate it.