If someone expects (or hopes for) a tip, a little basket may be provided. Attendants at public toilets usually have set fees. It’s isn’t customary to tip a petrol station attendant for cleaning your windscreen or checking your oil. On the other hand, hairdressers or the girl who washes your hair usually receives a tip of between €3 and €5.
It isn’t necessary to tip a porter, who charges a fixed price per piece of luggage. An apartment block concierge or porter ( portiere) usually receives a substantial tip at Christmas, e.g. €25 to €50, depending on how helpful he has been and how often you’ve used his services. He may also receive tips at other times for special jobs. Postmen aren’t tipped in Italy. Large tips are considered ostentatious and in bad taste (except by the recipient, who will be your friend for life).
Hotel, restaurant and café bills usually include a 15 per cent cover ( coperta coperto) and service ( servizio) charge plus IVA (10 per cent or 20 per cent in top-class restaurants), usually shown on the bill as ‘all inclusive’ ( tutto compreso).
When it isn’t indicated on the menu, most people assume that service is included, although IVA isn’t always included. Even when service isn’t included, Italians rarely leave large tips ( mancia), although it’s customary to leave a few small coins when having a drink standing at a bar.
When paying by credit card, a tip is usually left in cash rather than added to the credit card payment. Tips aren’t usually left in establishments where you pay at a cash register rather than at the table, or in family-run restaurants where you’re a regular customer.
The main exception to the tipping rule is in expensive or fashionable establishments, where ‘tips’ may be given to secure a table (or guarantee a table in future).
If you’re unsure whether you should tip someone, ask (Italian) neighbours, friends or colleagues for advice – although they will probably all tell you something different!
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Italy. Click here to get a copy now.