What is drinking age in Italy? You’ll be surprised to know!

By Alice Ross | EUROPE

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. 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.


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. 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

Drinking Age in Italy(2)

As the 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.

As you can see, the 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!


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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