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La Bella Vita: Italy’s city tourist taxes and key Italian vocabulary for dining out

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La Bella Vita: Italy’s city tourist taxes and key Italian vocabulary for dining out
Tourists pictured on a horse carriage in front of Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

From knowing how much ‘tourist tax’ you’ll need to pay when visiting Italian destinations this summer to mastering essential Italian words and phrases for dining out, our weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.


La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This newsletter is published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or following the instructions in the newsletter box below.

The summer months are by far the busiest time of year in Italy as millions of visitors travel to the peninsula from all over the world to explore its so-called citta’ d’arte (‘art cities’, including Rome, Florence and Venice), beach resorts or natural parks. 

But whether you're staying in a big city, a seaside holiday spot, or a mountain resort, if you’re one of the 216 million tourists expected in the country this summer, there’s a good chance you’ll have to pay a local 'tourist tax' on top of your accommodation bill. 

The fee, which is used by local authorities to offset the costs of public services, is a frequent source of confusion for tourists as not all cities apply it, and those that do tend to vary their rates by type and star rating of accommodation, time of year or location.

As some cities plan to raise their tourist taxes this summer, we’ve looked at the rates (and exemptions) you can expect in Italy’s most popular destinations.

Tourist tax: How much is it increasing in Italy's cities this year?

Besides an Italian nonna’s homemade cooking and the sagre food festivals cropping up in the warm months, dining out is arguably the best way to explore Italy’s famous cuisine. 

Generally speaking, waiting staff at most restaurants in big cities and holiday hotspots tend to have at least some basic knowledge of English, meaning you should be able to order your meal in inglese without a hitch.

But that’s not the case everywhere in the country.


Whether you’re dealing with staff with a cosi’ cosi’ command of English, or are simply eager to test out your Italian speaking skills, there is some essential vocabulary that’s well worth getting familiar with.

From prenotare un tavolo (booking a table) to pagare il conto (paying the bill), here are some key words and phrases to memorise before your next restaurant meal in Italy.

The essential vocabulary you'll need to dine out in Italy

People eat in a restaurant in the Murazzi by the Po River, on May 8, 2024 in Turin.

Diners at a restaurant along the Po River in Turin. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

Speaking of paying the bill, Italian restaurants have some peculiar norms around squaring the books which can occasionally catch foreign visitors off guard – or even cause them offence in some cases. 

From where and how to pay to the controversial coperto charge and the tip/no tip dilemma, here’s an overview of what to do (and what not to do) for a stress-free experience next time you’re paying the bill in Italy.

What to do (and avoid) when paying a restaurant bill in Italy


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