Are you heading to Italy and unsure about the tipping culture? It’s good that you are researching the subject as it is likely very different from your home country. This article is all about paying, tipping, and service etiquette in Italy. We’ve also added in some helpful phrases that will come in handy when asking for the check.
Credit Cards, Tipping And Communicating In Rome
Regardless of what I tell you in this article, transitioning to a completely different way of service will be a culture shock. It is important to remember that everything is a give and take.
Spoiler: Tipping is close to non-existent in Italy. A few euros here and there. That said, don’t expect your waiter to stop by and ask you how things are going every 45 seconds and to refill your water every time you take a sip. Honestly, I prefer it that way because you can actually have a conversation without being interrupted.
Cash Or Credit?
The currency in Italy is the Euro.
An important thing to remember about Italy is that cash is still king, it’s still necessary to carry a reasonable amount of cash around with you at all times to avoid getting stuck.
In general, most restaurants will allow you to pay with a credit card, which becomes more and more prevalent each year. The same goes for large shops and tourist attractions, but for drinks, coffee, transport tickets, and small items, cards often aren’t accepted.
There may be a 10€ minimum on card payments. Why can’t you pay for a coffee with a credit card? A cappuccino normally costs 1.20€ to 1.50€ in Italy instead of the usual $5 in Western countries. This is why it is expected to pay in cash.
Rule of Thumb:
For less than 10€, pay cash. For more than 10€, you can probably pay credit as long as there isn’t a “Solo Cash” sign on the door.
The Good News:
The Italian word for credit card is carta di credito. Any Italian shop owner will understand when you ask, “Credit Card?”. They also will know to respond, “Cash” if they don’t accept credit cards. Don’t stress.
Popular Vatican Tours
Tipping isn’t particularly expected in Italy. I’ve tried to convince visitors that you just need to leave some extra change, a euro per person, regardless of check size, but it normally falls on deaf ears.
To simplify things, I have created different levels of tipping to help people understand:
Don Corleone – Leave 20% if you go back, restaurant staff will celebrate your return as if you were the Godfather. You may get some sneers from other restaurant-goers that can’t get your waiter’s attention, but the waiter will likely name their firstborn after you or sacrifice a goat in your honor. The goat thing is only in Sicily.
Super Nice – Leave 10%. Less than you are used to be far more than anyone in Italy would expect in Italy. You’ll save the life of a goat and still make the waiters day.
Roman – Leave a euro or two extra per person. Wait staff will be very happy and welcome you back in the future.
Nothing at All – Leave nothing, and nobody will say anything. Your food will not be poisoned upon returning, and waiters will still welcome you back.
Top Colosseum Tours
Communicating In English Or Italian
One of my favorite things to watch is travelers trying to string together Italian words into sentences from a guidebook. I have been that traveler in many countries, and the worst part is when the person you are speaking to actually understands you and responds!
Let’s not romanticize the “key phrases” part of a guidebook here and keep it simple. The below phrases will make you look like a pro because you’ll get simple responses such as “si” or a finger pointing at the bathrooms.
Remember that C’s have a hard “ch” sound, unlike Spanish.
How much does this cost?
Il conto per favore.
Do you take credit cards?
Posso pagare con la carte?
Where is the bathroom?
Dov’è il bagno? or simply “bagno?”
Table for 2, please.
Tavolo per due, per favore.
Can you order for me?
The last recommendation is by far my favorite. If your waiter is Roman, they will accept the challenge and bring some tasty food.
A key phrase is “certo” (cherto), which means “of course”. Romans use this all the time, so you may hear it instead of “si”.