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.
Being a poor student, I hardly ever tip no matter what country I'm in... I know, I suck :) Anyway... just found yor blog yesterday and I love it, I wish my life was full of such interesting things and places... You're a true inspiration!
It's true. I first noticed it one night when we were out for dinner at a restaurant and my uncle didn't leave a tip. I didn't think much of it until I was out another night with some other relatives and the same thing happened...no tip. I never saw the receipts so I wouldn't know if there were any of these "hidden" charges on it. :)
Hi Bitter Chocolate,
Thanks for the kind words. I am glad I inspire someone :)
Yes, no one tips here. I surely don't or at the most I leave the small change as sometimes I cannot be bothered to wait for them to bring it back!
I read the beginning if this post and all I could think of was 'tipping cows'. Must be still half asleep!
One of my first times staying in Italy as an adult, my boyfriend just dropped me off at the aesthetician and I didn't know about the tip policy and left her almost a 50% tip because I was just so nervous! After I told family/friends that I did, they let me know of my 'grosso sbaglio'! I went back to her the next year, but more knowledgeable, and you could tell how disappointed she was because I didn't tip her!
I do recall once staying in a hotel for over a week in Italy and we did pool our money and gave the staff a tip to split.
But I don't know who has it right, (us) Americans with the 20% (almost) mandatory tip on everything or no tips at all like in Italy?
Tipping cows? I think you must be half asleep or drunk :)
I think in America it is a bit much that you have to tip everyone as the service is not always good. I think tip means you can chose to leave something. In America maybe they should introduce the cover charge fee?
And how funny about nearly leaving the 50% tip. She would have been loving you!!!
I love this post, Leanne and have been thinking of doing something similiar. People ask me about this often at our B&B.
Even here in Catanzaro you always get the service fee charge, even at pizza and panini places. I prefer that to having to worry about 20% and tips. Too much math after beer or wine!
I am sure you are asked this question all the time. And I agree with you, best to just charge the cover fee and then no one need worry about how much to leave...as it's already done!
Leanne - it's good to read about the correct tipping practice from someone who lives in Italy. I've read about tipping in guidebooks but these are usually written by Americans.
I wasn't aware that you could refuse the bread and wouldn't be charged for it, good to no. Thanks.
I usually don't tip since there's typically a coperto on the bill but when I've had excellent service that was above and beyond I don't mind leaving some additonal money.
Remember the first time the three of us were in Rome and they tried to charge us for the bread we didn't eat (I think it was our first dinner in Rome)! It was funny at the time how we use to scrutinise the bill as we were on our back backer budget... I suddenly remembered and it is funny that nowadays we wouldn't both to argue over 1.50euro or whatever it was!
That's all love twin
Hi Iced tea,
You can refuse the bread if you don't want it. Or you can leave it there and not eat it and then make sure they don't charge you for it. See the comment below yours from my twin sister. When we were backpacking around Europe and a little strapped for cash we refused bread all the time!
I do remember that we made them take the bread off the bill since we did not eat it. I was thinking of this when I wrote that point as people on a budget (like we were) cannot afford to pay for all these bits and pieces. We were angry though I remember that they tried to charge us for it!
Hey Leanne, thanks for posting this info. Good to know tipping is not required. I like to reserve my tipping for good service.
I think the thing with America is that the wages for wait staff are dismal so they pretty much work for tips. The wages in Australia are a bit better so tips can be considered as a bonus.
You are welcome for the info! I look forward to answering your other questions too.
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