What Is The Legal Drinking Age In Italy? Find Out Now
Italian culture is inextricably linked with its food and wine. And a visit to Italy requires you to sample its food and drinks generously. Italy’s wineries especially are one of the major highlights of the country.
So, if you are planning a trip to Italy, especially with family and have teenagers tagging along, you want to make sure they can all experience a trip to the winery or simply taste some of the exquisite wine. And that means you need to know specific guidelines, including what is the legal age in Italy and all of Bel Paese’s drinking rules and customs.
What Is The Legal Drinking Age In Italy?
You must be 18 years old to drink legally in Italy, which is also the acceptable drinking age in the majority of European countries.
The legal drinking age in Italy used to be 16, but it was raised to 18 years old as part of the changes that Health Minister Renato Balduzzi initiated in 2012.
These changes also included the imposition of fines for establishments selling alcohol to anybody below 18 years old. If any establishment is caught selling alcohol to anybody below 16, the act is considered a criminal offense and is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year.
Drinking Culture In Italy
After Spain and France, Italy is the next largest producer of wine. This not only is a major tourist attraction and boost to the country’s economy but the wine culture is also more socially and culturally acceptable and prominent.
So, despite the updated laws, alcohol consumption in Italy is unregulated, especially in homes.
Ideally, minors or anyone below 18 years of age are not legally allowed to consume or purchase any alcoholic beverage in restaurants, bars, and any outdoor setting.
But although there are regulations in place, a server or restaurateur will generally not refuse or card someone who appears younger if they are accompanied by their parents or by legal adults.
It has also been socially acceptable for minors to sip a small amount of alcohol in the presence of their family members and not to the point that they get drunk.
Additional Info You Should Know
#1. Availability And Alcohol Cost
Alcoholic drinks are widely available across Italy. It is one commodity you can easily purchase in grocery stores, supermarkets, and even vending machines. Alcoholic beverages are often even cheaper than sodas and juices.
For instance, one glass of Chianti is cheaper than a can of Coke. Overall, the cost of alcohol, specifically wine, is inexpensive in Italy.
#2. Alcohol Curfew
There are certain municipalities in Italy where alcohol can be consumed and sold only until a specific hour during the night. This ordinance aims to minimize noise during the night and other public nuisance behaviors that can result from public drinking, especially among young people.
Minors who are caught drinking or drunk in public are typically reported to their parents, but no criminal offense is imposed.
#3. Exceptions During Festivals
Alcohol is almost always present in huge outdoor parties like festivals, carnivals, fairs, and markets. So, alcohol sales and consumption bans are usually lifted during these activities.
But it is always recommended for minors to be around adults who can manage their drinking and control the situation if things become unruly.
#4. Drinking Venue Sessions
The most common alcoholic drink consumed in Italy is wine and it is commonly consumed at home as wine is a staple for almost all meals.
It is very un-Italian to binge drink because the locals have grown up with the culture that wine needs to be enjoyed and experienced and that a good wine can complete any occasion or meal.
#5. Minors Drinking
As previously mentioned, the legal age to drink in Italy is 18, but there’s a minor loophole in the law — there’s no clear stipulation for a minor who’s caught drinking with their parents.
The silent rule is that most establishments will turn a blind eye if the minor is having some drinks with their family, especially if the parents and grandparents are there. This is often because it’s assumed that since family is around, the right people are present to control the situation.
#6. Proof Of Age And Identification
Anyone selling alcohol in Italy is obligated to ask for an ID to confirm whether the buyer is legally allowed to drink. The only exception here is if it is very apparent that the person buying the alcoholic drink is more than 18 years old.
Here’s what the Italian law says about this: “Anyone who sells alcoholic beverages has an obligation to ask the buyer, at the time of purchase, the production of an identity document, except in cases where the greater age of the buyer is evident.”
#7. Person To Punish
Italian law does not punish the person or minor who purchased the alcoholic drink. Instead, it holds the person or establishment selling alcohol responsible.
This is why restaurants and retailers are very strict about implementing the rules when it comes to selling alcohol. Because if they get caught going against the law, they may face a fine of up to €1,000 and even imprisonment in extreme cases.
#8. Americans Drinking In Italy
In the US, the legal age to drink is 21. But we always follow the local laws of the country we are in. In this case, you can abide by Italy’s drinking laws and not the laws of your home country.
So, if you are a US citizen under 21 years old but over 18 years old, then you can drink legally in Italy.
#9. Permission To Drink
If you have a minor family member traveling with you in Italy, it is entirely up to you if you want to allow them to drink in your presence.
Almost every young Italian has and will always be allowed to sip wine at a family gathering or when celebrating an important milestone.