Tipping is not obligatory--or common--in Italy.
Be aware that some tourist-savvy service people in Italy know that Americans are pre-programmed to tip everything from waiters to taxi drivers to tour guides and just about anyone who works in a hotel. I've even seen blank lines on the check that says "tip" in English in some Rome restaurants... just waiting for the American sucker to write in a tip... The waiters with the biggest cojones (pardon, in Italian it's palle) will stand there holding their hands out. Reach out, shake it and say "grazie" like a polite Italian would and leave them nothing more than a smile. After all, they are the ones that are living la bella vita, not you. They are the ones with the three hour lunchtime, not you. They are the ones that get a guaranteed full month off in August, not you. You worked hard to earn your trip to Italy, didn't you? Do YOU think you are the "rich American"? Unless they gave you the best service you've ever had in your life, forget the tip.
Fact: In Italy, all waiters earn a decent living wage and don't rely on tips, unlike in the U.S. where waiters and waitresses earn a low hourly rate and earn most of their income from tips.
Consider this: The average daily cost for a traveler in Italy is about $60. If you tipped 20% of that cost, that would be $12 each day--just for tips. For a 2 week vacation, that comes to spending $168 extra! That could be one night in a hotel, or enough to splurge on a one of a kind souvenir that can't be bought anywhere back home, or enough to cover the airline's charge for that extra legroom seat.
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