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ITALY EXPLAINED

What are the rules on tipping in Italy?

Ten percent? Twenty? Nothing at all? Here's our guide to paying your bill at restaurants and bars in Italy without getting carbonara on your face.

What are the rules on tipping in Italy?
Should you tip at the end of your meal in Italy? Here's what you need to know. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

In Italy for a holiday and not sure about the etiquette of tipping?

Here’s the insider knowledge you need to know about what – if anything – you should add on to your bill to avoid embarrassment.

Restaurants

Let’s start with the fundamentals: even if you don’t stay in fancy hotels or travel by taxi in Italy, you are probably going to eat at a restaurant at some point, and don’t want to be worrying about how much extra to set aside for the bill.

Here, you can relax: tipping big isn’t required or expected in Italy. 

That’s partly because Italian waitstaff aren’t reliant on tips to get by like they are in many parts of the US, for example; and partly because in some restaurants, it’s already included in the bill.

If you see servizio listed as one of the items on your conto (bill), service has been covered. It will usually be no more than a couple of euros per diner.

READ ALSO: How to spot the Italian restaurants to avoid

At most sit-down establishments, you can expect to see a coperto (‘cover’) charge of anywhere between €1 to €2.50 per person to cover basics like bread and olive oil brought at the start of the meal. You might also see this cost identified as pane.

This second type of charge goes to the restaurant rather than the server, so it doesn’t constitute a tip.

If you don’t see servizio listed on the bill – or even if you do – you might want to leave a small tip in the form of one or two extra euros per person, and if there’s a group of you paying the bill together, you’d want to round up to at least the nearest five.

READ ALSO: Restaurant near Vicenza welcomes dogs, if they pay a cover charge

But there’s no need to pay 20 or even 10 percent extra.

If you’re paying by card, bear in mind that very few places will be able to add a tip to the card payment – so you might want to carry some change or small notes so you are able to leave something behind.

It's normal in Italy to tip one or two euros extra per diner.

It’s normal in Italy to tip one or two euros extra per diner. Photo by Egor Gordeev on Unsplash.

Bars

You generally wouldn’t be expected to leave any tip when visiting a bar in the evening in Italy.

That’s perhaps partly because the majority of Italian bars double up as cafes or coffee bars, so you can go there for your cappuccino in the morning, an espresso and amaro after lunch, and a spritz in the evening. 

The more relaxed quality to these types of bars, and their dual identity as cafes, means there’s not the same bar tipping culture that you’d find in some other countries.

However if you’re at an upscale wine bar and get snacks or sharing plates, then you might consider leaving a little something extra, as you would at a restaurant.

READ ALSO: Where, when and how to drink coffee like an Italian

As for tipping for your coffee; there’s no obligation at all, but it’s common to round up by a few centesimi if it makes sense. For example, if you’re paying 90 cents for an espresso, it’s normal to just leave a euro coin on the counter and walk away.

Many cafes these days also have tip jars on the bar where you can deposit your loose change.

Bear in mind that most cafes will charge you more to drink your coffee sitting at a table than standing up at a bar.

The price lists up by the counter usually refer to the cost of a standing drink, and only some of them also include the sit-down price, so if you’re in a touristy area, it’s worth checking the cost of table service before sitting yourself down.

Taxis

No tipping is required or expected. Your driver will give you exact change and expect you to keep it – though if you hand them a note that’s a little higher than the amount on the meter and tell them to keep the change, they probably won’t say no.

Though people generally pay by cash, most Italian taxis should also have card machines you can use if you prefer.

Hotels 

For smaller places like B&Bs and guesthouses, there are no expectations of any tip.

For more upscale hotels, you can use the same rule of thumb as applies to restaurants: one or two euros a day as a sign of appreciation to a housekeeper or dedicated waiter who’s taken care of you over the course of your stay.

For porters who carry your bags for you, one euro per bag is the norm.

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MILAN

Why do Milan residents get a day off on December 7th?

If you live in Milan, you may get an extra day off work on December 7th. Here's what the city is celebrating and how.

Why do Milan residents get a day off on December 7th?

December 7th is a public holiday in Milan as residents commemorate their beloved patron saint, St Ambrose. 

The annual Festa di Sant’Ambrogio, which happens to fall on a Wednesday this year, is one of the city’s most anticipated recurrences, giving residents an opportunity to catch up with family and friends and unofficially marking the start of the festive season in the northern metropolis.

READ ALSO: The Italian holiday calendar for 2023

As in the case of other local public holidays across the country (Saints Peter and Paul in Rome, St Mark in Venice, St Orontius in Lecce, etc.), children will be home from school and most employees will be given the day off – by law, those who are asked to work on the day must be paid above their regular hourly rate. 

So why do locals celebrate Saint Ambrose, who lived and died in the northern city in the second half of the 4th century AD?

Ambrose served as Bishop of Milan from 374 AD to 397 AD, but it could be argued that his influence on the city went far beyond that of an ordinary clergyman. 

Chritsmas tree in MIlan's Piazza Duomo

Milan’s traditional Christmas light displays will be switched on on December 7th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Ambrose was known for the eloquence of his public speeches, his exceptional diplomacy when handling political matters and, above all, his efforts to promote social justice in the city as he regularly urged Milan’s richest citizens to care and provide for the poor. 

Ambrose’s commitment to the betterment of Milanese society is ultimately why he is cherished by thousands of residents to this day, with local commemorations peaking, of course, on December 7th.

So, how do locals celebrate the day?

Well, the most faithful residents head to the Basilica of St Ambrose, the church named after the saint, for morning mass, with the service being usually held by Milan’s Bishop himself.

After mass, families get together to celebrate in the best way known to Italians, that is with a big lunch.

Here, a number of local delicacies, from Milanese-style risotto to mondeghili (meatballs) and rostin negàa (veal cuts), fill up the bellies of the lucky diners.

The meal usually ends with people enjoying their first seasonal taste of panettone (many more sampling sessions generally follow in the weeks after) or eating some home-made ambrosiani, traditional shortbread biscuits made precisely to celebrate Milan’s patron saint.

In the afternoon, after having managed to recover from their lunchtime indulgences, residents tend to spend some time outside, with the city offering plenty of things to do on the day. 

Firstly, locals will have a chance to visit the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Market, a fair thought to date back to the early 1500s.

READ ALSO: Seven of Italy’s most enchanting Christmas markets in 2022

The market’s stalls, which are meant to open to the public exactly on December 7th, will be set up in front of Milan’s iconic Sforza Castle, selling anything from hand-crafted Christmas decorations and gadgets to local delicacies.

Christmas market in Milan

One of the best things to do in Milan on December 7th is to visit one of the city’s traditional Christmas markets. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Those who are not so fond of traditional markets might instead head to Piazza Duomo in central Milan to attend the Christmas lights switch-on event.

This year, the traditional light displays will be turned on at 5pm and will be followed by a party organised by cosmetics company VeraLab.

Finally, the premiere of the famous La Scala opera house will also take place on December 7th. While tickets to the event are no longer available, the musical performance – ‘Boris Godunov’ played by an orchestra under director Riccardo Chailly – will be aired live in several locations across the city.

A valuable reminder: Thursday, December 8th, the day following the Festa di Sant’Ambrogio, is a national public holiday, so you shouldn’t be too worried about staying up till late on Wednesday. 

READ ALSO: Why is Italy’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception a public holiday? 

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