What is Drinking Age in Italy? You’ll be Surprised to Know!

By Alice Ross | FOOD & DRINK

Aug 23
drinking age in italy
When traveling to Italy, it is not easy to miss the party since most major cities offer. However, you have to know that drinking in Italy isn't the same as most countries in the world and more importantly, you must know the answer to the question, "What is the legal drinking age in Italy?"
The reason I say this is that Italians are not really a nation you can consider as "drinkers" – at least not the same as America and other countries in Europe.

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The thing about Italy is that drinking goes with certain activities, and getting drunk is usually being frowned upon. Public intoxication gives shame not only to yourself but also to your family, different from Anglo cultures where this kind of behavior earns admiration and awe from people around you. But for many travelers visiting Italy, there’s a question they need an answer to, “What is drinking age in Italy?”

Drinking Age in Italy

Drinking Age in Italy

You may be surprised to know that the legal drinking age in the country is 16 years old, which is probably the youngest drinking age in the world. That’s slightly younger compared to laws applied to many countries.

However, there is not a heavy penalty for teens drinking under 16 years old. It’s socially acceptable to drink alcohol as long as you are with your parents. However, the law isn’t always enforced. When it comes to drinking consumption for minors, Italy is a liberal country. There are many minors in the country that commonly enjoy their alcohol particularly in special occasion as it’s a part of the country cultural practice, and it’s totally normal and isn’t strange.

Drinking Age in Italy(1)

According to Italian penal code, a restaurant owner or a bartender can be jailed for giving alcohol to customers aged below 16 and also to a person suffering from mental disability. However, there are restaurants and establishments that wouldn’t serve the minor although they are there together with the parents.

Of course, the case is different when you are in another country like the United States where minors would be provided with such a margin in drinking alcohol. There’s not a lot of a cultural tradition, at least in the part years, of minors drinking alcohol for the sake of pleasure, as a generally accepted thing. In Italy, on the other hand, it’s a lot different. There are rules that protect the minors, but otherwise, drinking is seen as a social activity than an offense.

Buying Alcohols for Minors

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As the legal drinking age in italy is 16, locals of that age are also not allowed to purchase alcohol in Italy. Even though it’s prohibited for minors to purchase alcohol in the country, it’s possible that it’s only because the seller didn’t really care. Unlike in America, fake IDs are not common in Italy, usually, their parents buy the alcohol at home and they let them drink, so it’s not very necessary.

However, you still have to keep in mind that the minor, although he or she doesn’t experience any directorial penalty or illegal charges for drinking alcoholic in public, if he or she gets caught drinking alcohol, it is still required for him or her to be identified by the authorities and, preferably, delivered to his or her parents.

Drinking Customs in Italy

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    To clink the glasses or to cheer, you can say “Salute," "Buona fortuna," or "Cin cin."
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    As general etiquette, look at the eyes of the person you are drinking with when you have to clink the glasses during a toast. This custom is related to earning trust, and you will encounter differences on it in a lot of countries. Generally, however, it is considered to be a superstition: In Italy as well in Germany, failing to do it may attract bad luck, in countries like Spain and France on the other hand, they may lead to bad sex.
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    If you are staying in Italy for a while, you need to get yourself used to aperitivo. In this country, drinking always goes with having a meal. Italians love gathering at any bars for a quick drink before having dinner.
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    In the same way, digestivo or a digestive drink is normally served after enjoying a nice meal. These are normally made of herb-infused liqueurs recognized for their digestive elements and drinking it is a great way to end a rich meal. Common digestivo include nocino, limoncello, and Galliano. A great alternative to the normal liqueur-based digestivo is a dessert wine such as the Moscato d'Asti.

What to Drink in Italy

Italian drinks have an important role in Italian culture. Everyone, all over the world, enjoys Italian food. After all, who could resist a spicy, crispy crostini, a wickedly rich plate of pasta, and of course, a large slice of freshly baked pizza? But another important question is what the signature traditional ltalian drinks are?

Since you already have the answer to the question what is drinking age in Italy, the next thing probably want to know is what choice of drink should you have. If you have not been to Italy before, you might be difficult to try anything else aside from wine, but anyone who has experienced the
beautiful country knows that just like their food, Italians take their drink very seriously.

In Italy, every meal is considered a social event which can last for hours, and it is normal to start the meal with an aperitif which helps prepare the appetite. This could be cocktails, wine, liqueurs, or any mixed Italian alcoholic drinks for adults and Italian non alcoholic drinks for minors. Bellini is one of the most popular cocktails you can try in Italy, which is a mixture of champagne and peach puree.

Another one you must add to your Italian drinks list is Campari, which has 25% alcohol content normally enjoyed together with wine, soda water, or cocktails. If you love citrus, then make sure to try out Limoncello, a famous drink from Southern Italy.

When dinner is served, the wine starts to pour. If you want to try the most popular one, then go for Chianti. First of all, this wine originated from Tuscan was made from white grapes, but throughout the years turned into the delicious red wine. It is normally consumed while eating red meat or creamy pasta. If you are looking to have a lighter meal, like seafood or fish, then a dry white wine like Pinot Grigio would be a great drink for you. Lastly, together with a drink, what you would want to try is Asti Spumante.

Another drink Italy is known for is coffee. However, if you want to try something more adventurous, then you may want to add a spike of alcohol. Most of the time, this is nut liqueur or cognac, but Bailey's and Vov are also common.

As you can see, the legal drinking age in Italy is different from most parts of the world and drinking culture is seen as a part of the culture rather than an offense. However, as someone who travels to Italy, you must respect the law even though the laws applied to drinking age in Italy is not as strict as other countries like America. Anyway, drinking is not really necessary for people to have fun.

So, what do you think about the drinking culture in Italy? How is it compared to your country? Let us know in the comment below!

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Alice Ross, a long-term traveler who left the corporate world to travel the world. I chose to live life on my own phase and live day by day while immersing myself in new experiences, new knowledge, and new people in a different walk of life I met along the way.

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