The Timing Rule To Remember When Dining Out In Italy

If you live in the U.S., you likely have mealtime customs that you aren't even aware are unique to the country. For instance, tipping culture is a widely spoken-about topic that is very different depending on where you are in the world. For Americans, there is a 15% to 25% tip that is expected at the end of the meal. This is not just a courtesy but helps pay the server's wages. In Italy, however, tipping is not mandatory, but leaving a single euro or two behind can be a very nice gesture indicating you had great service. But there's more to account for if you plan on jetting off to Italy anytime soon, as it's not just etiquette that changes between time zones but meal times as well.

There are major differences between the U.S. and Italy when it comes to calculating when you can start eating dinner. If you're from the States, you may take a lunch break around noon and enjoy eating dinner anywhere from 5 to 7 p.m. But if you're planning to have a relaxing dinner reservation in Italy, know that you're going to have to plan for a bit later than you might be used to. Italians will often enjoy lunch sometime between 1 and 3 p.m., and dinner will commence anywhere from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. However, if you do plan on showing up to a restaurant sometime between those times, its doors will probably not be open. 

Take note of when the kitchen closes

These lunch and dinner meal times in Italy are pretty standard because it's customary for Italian restaurants to close their kitchen in between meals. While some restaurants in the U.S. do the same, it's much less common and tends to be the case for higher-end establishments. But this is standard practice for full-service restaurants in Italy, and nearly all of them will be closed from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m.

If you are visiting a more metropolitan area of the country, it is possible that some restaurants will remain open to serve tourists that are looking for meals at slightly different times of the day. But in a less busy area, it is unlikely any places will be ready to serve anyone in these off hours.

However, not all hope is lost if you get hungry for an afternoon snack. Some cafés will have limited menus available, and you may be able to enjoy a light meal to hold you over until a proper Italian dinner.