Tipping in Italy

Nov 19th, 2003, 07:22 AM
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Tipping in Italy

In doing my research for next week's trip to Rome and Venice, I came across the following information on tipping:

"In Italy, and generally in Europe, it is above all a kind gesture of appreciation. It is not a compulsory gesture, and let alone there are no percentages on the service paid. Moreover, the waiter, or barman, or driver etc., will understand if you don't have change or small amount of money handy. On the other hand, you could be perceived as crummy if you don't tip, at least leaving a little amount."

Do those of you who travel regularly to Italy agree with this advice, and if so can you provide some guidelines on what a "little amount" really is?

Any advice will be appreciated, since I certainly don't want to be percieved as "crummy".

newesttraveler is offline  
Nov 19th, 2003, 08:11 AM
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While in Italy with travelling with a large group this past summer, we were surprised to find out that tipping is somewhat unusual. We left standard tips as we would in the U.S., and one waitress in Florence was more than delighted to get our $50.00 tip...
dmkujat is offline  
Nov 19th, 2003, 09:05 AM
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I am always wondering about this too, and have asked many Italians that live here in the states. I feel that it comes down to:
1. If you are an Italian, they expect a smaller tip than if you are an American.
2.If you talk to anyone that was a waiter in Italy or France, they certainly appreciate a good tip, and do not think less of us for giving it.
3. At a restaurant if the service was very good and I had a good time, I usually leave 10% (which is 1/2 of what I would leave at home) If it was not good service, but not bad, I will leave a few euros (,3,4,5).
4. I always leave about .50 at the bar for coffees, I see others leave .20, but I just can't go there. I tip the maids that clean the rooms, 3E a day.
The bottom line with tipping, since I recieve tips in my line of work, is that the tipper feels good about what they leave. I do tip less in Italy than at home, but I feel that the amount that I leave is appreciated by them and reflects my appreciation of their services.
In September we were in a restauant in Milan and a group of 4 americans at the next table left 3E on a 182E bill. They must have read the same info about leaving small change...I personally thougt that was an insulting amount. Bottom line...there is no answer...good luck and have a great time and don't worry about it.
susanna is offline  
Nov 19th, 2003, 09:11 AM
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Very well put, susanna. Your standards are identical to mine (except I usually just leave 2 euro a day for the maids).
I know many people say Americans shouldn'd tip where it is not custom, but I think today the Italians (and the French and others) almost expect Americans to tip them. And the way I look at it, I'm a high maintenance type customer. I don't speak their language, I require more time and effort from the server in trying to explain or communicate, and I appreciate that fact so think I "owe" them more than a local Italian customer does.
Patrick is offline  
Nov 19th, 2003, 03:46 PM
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Someone (Italian no less) told me that leaving a large (20%) tip in a restaurant is insulting to the owner. It implies that the owner doesn't pay the staff a decent wage.

I don't know if I buy this arguement, but I do wonder.
MarkY is offline  
Nov 19th, 2003, 03:52 PM
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Fodor's has a tipping guide and this is what they say about Italy:

"Tipping practices vary depending on where you are. Italians tip smaller amounts in small cities and towns, often not at all in cafés and taxis north of Rome. The following guidelines apply in major cities.

In restaurants a 15% service charge is usually added to the total; it's customary to give the waiter an additional 5%-10%, depending on the service and on the quality of the meal.

Charges for service are included in all hotel bills, but smaller tips to staff members are appreciated. In general, in a $$ hotel, chambermaids should be given about €.75 per day, or about €4-€5 a week; bellhops should get €.50-€1.

Tip a minimum of €.50 for room service and valet service. Tip breakfast waiters €.25 per day per table (at end of stay). These amounts should be increased by 40% in reasonably expensive hotels, doubled in luxury hotels.

Give the concierge about 15% of the bill for services. Tip doormen about €.25 for calling a cab.

Taxi drivers are happy with 5%-10%, although Italians rarely tip them.

Porters at railroad stations and airports charge a fixed rate per suitcase; tip an additional €.25 per person, more if the porter has been very helpful.

Tip service-station attendants €.50 if they have been especially helpful.

Tip guides about €1 per person for a half-day tour, more if they are very good."

There are also guides to any other place you visit. You can, of course, tip substantially more if you are feeling insecure or less if the service was unsatisfactory (or you're cheap).

jsmith is offline  
Nov 19th, 2003, 06:33 PM
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Wait a minute! dmkujat left a $50 tip???

For what??? I can't imagine how many people were in your group that you left $50.00
StCirq is online now  
Nov 20th, 2003, 03:54 AM
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Hi news,

In Italy, all restaurant bills include a service charge. One leaves a small tip if the service was particularly good. Round up to the nearest Euro.

Bellhops, maids, cab drivers, etc do not expect tips.

You may give tips if you wish to.

On our recent trip we found that service personnel would often leave before I could get a change purse out of my pocket.

A gracious "grazie" is quite enough.
ira is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 05:20 AM
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This issue has been raised many times, especially for France and Italy where service charges are often added onto bills at the end.

for another source of info on tipping, see www.twenj.net
I have never seen a source that says "under all circumstances, don't tip." And to me, to leave a tip of a few cents is the potential for insult.
Does an adult who has a job really care about 20 euro cents? Or even 50?

I tip. I don't throw around 5e or 10e bills, but I tip. Service charges go to management, and yes, management is supposed to pay a decent wage, but I have never had the impression that my server or chambermaid found a tip insulting or unwelcome, and I'd be surprised if a bellman weren't expecting one.

If that contributes to the idea of the typical spendthrift American distributing largesse to the natives, I'm okay with that. There are other stereotypes that I'd mind much more, and I'd rather err on the side of generosity than for stinginess, if I had to choose one extreme over the other.But that's me.

Let me rush to add that I am not condemning anyone else's choices for tipping or not (or for any other practice, for that matter) but I tip, and I'm comfortable with it, as we should all be with our reasonable choices. I'm off the soapbox now.
elaine is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 05:27 AM
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I still say that anyone who thinks that a tip is "insulting" has never had to work for one. Tip for degree and quality of service rendered whether your friends or others nearby are doing so or not. And if the manager is insulted let him or her be insulted..they weren't waiting on the table or schlepping the bags.
Nov 20th, 2003, 05:39 AM
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Good morning, just returned from IT
and was suprised that a number of ristorantes have no longer included service (servizi) within their bills,
look them over very well, coperata is
still included but when in doubt, ask
if service is included and if not then
return to your normal tipping philosophy....Both ristorantes which we
dined in in CH still had the tip included. I think this change started
when IT got hungry at the change to Euros, seems to have affected food prices more than others...But tht is just my opinion. Richard of LaGrange Park, IL.
dickv2 is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 06:04 AM
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Hi dicky,

IIRC there have been a number of notes from folks who live in Italy, both here and on Slowtalk, to the effect that service charge is part of the bill, and that coperta is now forbidden, but it still shows up as a charge for bread, whether you eat it or not.

This was our recent experience.

Happy to be corrected if I am in error.
ira is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 06:09 AM
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welcome back richard

did you go to Venice on this trip?
elaine is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 06:16 AM
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newesttraveler, tipping is one of those emotional things on which consensus is impossible to achieve. Hard data isn't available - governments, for example, don't release figures on what is actually left as a tip. Without a sufficiently big enough sample of independently collected data on what is actually left as a tip, as opposed to what customers or waiters claimed is left as a tip, 'guidelines' are just in the imagination of the travel writer.

To take an example from another area, when people are polled about their driving skills, the majority of the respondents stipulate that they are more careful than 'the average driver' - even though most of us probably take little notice of the drivers around us, except that jerk who cut us off at the intersection. So right off the start, the majority of people have already declared that in general, they drive better than you, the average person, despite knowing nothing about you. You're perceived as a 'crummy' driver not because of what you do or don't, but because of how people choose to feel about themselves. My guess is the same applies for tipping. The majority of people polled will allege that they are knowledgeable enough of other tippers to be able to rate themselves one way or another (generally superior to) the 'average', even though it is literally impossible for the majority to be 'above average.'

As Elaine says, we should tip according to our own philosophy, i.e. whatever makes us feel satisfied, but to expect that a tip will influence people's perception about you for the better (as opposed to 'crummy') probably isn't realistic. Bon voyage.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 08:45 AM
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What should I tip a tour guide in Italy? If I take a four hour tour of the Vatican and the guide does a great job I would want to tip him something. Just not sure how much.
MLnLA is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 11:32 AM
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Tip guides about €1 per person for a half-day tour, more if they are very good. (From posting above quoting Fodors)

jsmith is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 12:43 PM
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Our Italian friends have told us that they wish we would not tip. They say it is not necessary because service is included, and also in Italy being a waiter is a well paid and respected profession. It is the custom for Italians to leave a small amount of change only if they have received extra service.

This is different from the US where many waiters get paid very little other than the tips. Our Italian friends feel strongly about this and say they do not want Italy to become Americanized.
Sally is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 06:26 PM
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Sally, I can only say that it is too bad your Italian friends don't appreciate that some of us DO appreciate extra help when we are in a foreign country. The only possible reasons I can think of why an Italian would resent Americans tipping are:
A) they feel it makes them look stingey for not tipping
B) they look down on service personel and resent them getting extra money for doing a good job.

Sorry, but that's the way I see it. Why else would anyone suggest that other people shouldn't give extra money to deserving people?

To me that's no different than Americans resenting other Americans who might leave a 30 or 40% tip. Sure it's not the norm, but why should it bother someone if someone else does that?
Patrick is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 07:09 PM
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Patrick, I agree that what is left as a tip is a private matter between client and server, or ought to be. No given person has authority over another in what is (supposedly) a discretionary matter.

However, I see a problem with your example about the 30 - 40 per cent tip, since if tipping is a private matter, why would a specific tip from a given individual (30, 40 or any other per cent) have come up for discussion at all? By whom, and under what circumstances, did they come to know of this tip? Like you, I can't see anyone fairly resenting another's good fortune, but I might see them resenting another's self-serving bragging about being the purveyor of said good fortune.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Nov 20th, 2003, 07:17 PM
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Well Sue, I guess it's no different than an Italian knowing that an American give a 10 or 15% tip. Obviously it's because someone mentioned it. How would any Italian know that anyone gave a 10% tip? The same way one American would know that another gave a 40% tip. I guess you're saying that if an Italian was made aware that someone (maybe from the US) left a 10% tip, then what they really resent is the fact they brought it up? Good point.
Patrick is offline  

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