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An insider's view of Tuscany

Raymond Lamothe Facebook



Who and when and how much should we tip?

First of all let me start by saying that tipping is something that you face in many different forms. It runs from what you tip a waiter in a restaurant to how much do you give the busboy that carries your luggage to your room, to how you should compensate the really nice cleaning lady who kept your house in order during your holiday. I think two basic things worry the people who have contacted me about tipping: how much and when.

The how much is fairly simpler than the when, I have to say. Let’s address a few of the tipping situations you are likely to run into: taxi drivers in Italy don’t absolutely expect a tip, but are pleased to receive one – there is no obligation to tip them as they are paid according to the meter reading. If you are paying an amount with a few extra Euros in change, just leave them the change.

The busboy at the hotel should not only carry your luggage up to your room, but also show you any details that might be useful, such as where the minibar is, or what to click on the TV for it to operate properly, and where the room service menu for ordering is kept, and, last but not least, show you how to open and close curtains if they are present in the room. The more he helps, the higher the tip, but do not give more than between 5 and 10 Euros, unless you expect to have further dealings with the person and will be asking for additional services such as booking a restaurant or a theatre event or calling a taxi. This will most often occur in smaller hotels, where the receptionist and doorman and busboy are the same person all rolled into one.

Tipping in restaurants is absolutely not required. If you look at your check in any Italian restaurant you will often see a voice on it called “coperto” with a relative amount that usually runs between 1 and 5 Euros per person. This is an ancient tradition that most modern restaurants have agreed to drop in the course of the years, although some still charge it automatically – it is a cover charge that is supposed to pay for your table setting and the bread.

It dates back to when a lot of taverns were open to anyone who wanted to go in, sit down and order drinks, while eating their own food. It served to pay for “occupied space” in the “osteria” (which roughly translates into a place with a host) and the host - “Oste” in Italian - would try to sell you his food, but if you at least bought drink from him, then the cover charge took care of the table setting you were occupying. Do not tip any restaurant that puts a cover charge on your bill.

You can tip the waiter if he was especially nice and the food satisfied you and was handled properly. But you should never tip the owner of the restaurant, because the idea is that you are his guest, and albeit you are a paying guest, you are still being hosted by him or her. Any tip should be given to the waiter or, if you have paid in cash, and some cash is returned, just leave it there for the waiter to pick up once you leave.

Maids and cleaning ladies. In renting a Villa, you will come into contact with either the owner or the caretaker and the maid who comes in and cleans up during your stay. In many cases you are charged a fixed weekly maid service fee and the maid comes by two or three times per week for a few hours to keep the place tidy. Usually this fee is paid directly to the owner or to the caretaker. In many cases it is the caretaker who also does the cleaning. I always say that it is important to understand who the actual person doing the cleaning is, and I always suggest giving that person at least 10 Euros in tip BEFORE any cleaning begins.

The reason is that you are stimulating the person to go the extra bit for you and clean better and with more diligence in the hope of getting another tip at the end of your stay. If it works, then by all means do give the person a second more substantial tip at the end of your stay, but if it produces no results, then you’ve only wasted 10 Euros anyway…

Another person who you can decide to tip or not to tip is the chef, cook or caterer who you have booked to come to the Villa and prepare a meal for you. You are being charged for the meal and its associated services, but if you are going to have that service more than once, a tip is a good idea as it fits into the same principle as tipping the maid ahead of time.

There really is no one else you need to tip, although a nice gesture on your part once you return home, if you were pleased with your holiday arrangements and want to say so, is to write an email to the tour operator or travel agent that organized your trip with you to say that you enjoyed it and have them pass on your comments to the owners, caretakers and any others who helped make your holiday memorable. This is also a nice tip.



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