Every country has different guidelines and customs when it comes to tipping. In the United States, your tip is part of the living wage the server is earning. If you don’t tip 15 to 20 percent you’re either sending a strong message of disapproval or you’re unaware that most servers in the United States can’t make enough to live on without your tips. In Italy, it’s a bit different, however.
In Italy, waiters are paid a living wage or salary. They have health benefits provided by the government and has weeks of paid vacation. Being a waiter in Italy is a real job – not the part-time gig we think of in the United States. What this means in terms of tipping is that you’re not required to tip, but you might think about it if you truly enjoyed your dining experience.
“Il Coperto” and “Servizio Incluso”
Italian restaurants often include charges for incidentals and service. You will see “il coperto” and “servizio incluso” on your bill in many resteraunts in Italy. “Il coperto” is the charge for a glass or water and bread before you meal. “Servizio incluso” is the charge for service in the resteraunt. It is usually 15 to 20 percent just like a tip, and is standard fare. If you want to avoid paying this service fee, simply order your food at the bar or get it to go and eat al fresco.
Even with the service included, you still have the option to leave a tip behind if you’ve especially enjoyed the meal. However, the rule of thumb is to do what the local do, and in this case, a tip is considered a few odd coins. Strange if you’re used to paying a hefty portion of your bill, but to say a quick “thank you!” to the waiter, you can just leave some spare change on the table – it’s the message that is important here, not the amount. Even if a service fee is not included, you should still feel free to leave just a few coins. Some Italians even pass over the extra coins at the beginning of the meal or drink to ensure better service.
Hitting the Middle
Of course, there have been floods of tourists who don’t know how to tip like the locals and they lavish huge tips on waiter and taxi drivers. Sometimes the waiter and taxi drivers start to expect these large tips rather than some coins. If you’re uncomfortable with the local custom, simply hit a middle ground and offer 5 or 6 percent as a nice gesture.