The first time you get your restaurant bill in Italy, you might be a tad confused by a few items that you’re not used to seeing on your bill at home. No worries! Let’s break down that Italian restaurant bill together.
Ah, the infamous cover charge.
- What is it? Coperto is a small charge you’ll often see on your bill. It’s a per-person fee that covers the bread you’ve been munching on and any other table service.
- Should I be alarmed? No. While it might be unexpected for some travelers, it’s a standard practice in Italy. Think of it as paying for the ambiance and those delicious table appetizers. Usually, it’s around 1-3 euros per person.
No, it’s not a fancy Italian dish.
- What is it? Servizio, or service charge, is sometimes added to your bill, especially in more touristy areas, fancier places, or if you’re in a party of 8 or more people. It’s a percentage of your total bill (typically around 10-15%).
- Is it mandatory? In places that add the servizio, yes, it’s a mandatory charge. But always check your bill! If it says “servizio incluso” (service included), you’re already being charged for it. If there is a Servizio on the bill you don’t have to worry about tipping.
To tip or not to tip, that is the question.
- General rule of thumb: Tipping isn’t as customary in Italy as it might be in the US or other countries. Service staff usually receive a decent wage, and they don’t rely on tips as part of their income.
- But what if I want to? If you’ve had exceptional service or feel inclined to tip, it’s appreciated but not expected. Leaving a euro or two is a kind gesture, or if you’re feeling generous, rounding up the bill works too. For exceptional service, you could leave a gratuity of up to 10%. However, it’s important to note that tips are left in cash only. They aren’t added to the credit card like we do in the United States.
- Double-tipping trap: Remember the servizio charge? If it’s already on your bill, you’re technically already tipping. However, if you wish to leave a bit extra, that’s your call.
Navigating a foreign country’s customs can be tricky, but understanding them can make your travel experience so much smoother (and prevent those awkward end-of-meal moments). The next time you’ve found an incredibile restaurant and you’re sipping on that Chianti and diving into a plate of spaghetti, you’ll know exactly what’s going on when the bill arrives.
I help people curate authentic trips to Italy so they can avoid the tourist traps and travel their own way. I travel to Italy on a regular basis and recently bought a second home in Tuscany. My love affair with Italy grows stronger every time I visit because I focus on designing my trips in a way that allows me to immerse myself in the local culture at a relaxed pace. Download my FREE Authentic Italy Itinerary Planning Guide to learn the 3 steps to curating your next trip to Italy.