What is the legal drinking age in Italy in 2022/23?

Nadia Nadia

Written by Nadia

Legal Drinking Age in Italy

The minimum age to legally drink alcohol in Italy is 18, like in many other European countries (SpainFrancePortugal, etc.). This mainly means not the drinking age but buying age.

There are also countries like Belgium, Austria, Denmark, and Germany where 16-year-olds can legally buy low-alcohol beverages (drinks with less than 1.2% distilled alcohol). And honestly, that exception doesn’t make a big difference. 

Unless you look like an 8-year-old, no Italian place will refuse to serve you alcohol, especially wine. For Italians, wine is a tradition; they usually don’t think a glass of wine can be bad for any minor. 

There are reasons why alcohol is banned for minors

Drinking alcohol at a young age is dangerous for several reasons.

Alcohol consumption can lead to many problems, including liver damage, brain damage, and addiction. It can also interfere with organism growth, leading to problems later in life, and contribute to accidents and fatalities among young people.

Drinking alcohol at a young age also increases the probability of becoming dependent on it in adulthood and affects brain development.

This also has consequences in the social and educational sphere since “violent attitudes, alterations in family relationships, problems with studies and risk behaviors” can occur.

That being said, waiting until 18 is the most sensible thing to do.

drinking party in italy

The loopholes in the alcohol law

Legal restrictions on alcohol in Italy only partially pass the reality check.

The law is not as strict about consuming alcohol at a young age as about selling cigarettes. It prohibits only selling alcoholic beverages to people under 18 (though these are rare occasions in real life), and consuming is legal.

This rarely-enforced law and social acceptance bring some severe consequences. There are serious problems with drinking in Italy. 

The data reported by the National Institute of Health looks frightening – in 2019, almost 67% of Italians over 11 consumed alcoholic beverages. That is 36 million people; of these, more than 11 million drank alcohol daily (and more than 8 million in ways defined as risky). There are also 3.8 million binge drinkers who have consumed more than six glasses of alcohol on a single occasion, with over 43,000 visits to an emergency. 

The most popular alcoholic beverages in Italy

Besides the obvious ones, I suggest you the following drinks (as a minor, you can try some of them, I think):

NameAlcohol content
Bellini cocktail: A mix of peach puree and prosecco7%
Sgroppino cocktail: A frozen lemon sorbet, prosecco, and vodka9-12%
Limoncello: A lemon liquor30%
Aperol Spritz: An Aperol liquor, prosecco, and soda water11%
Vermouth: A fortified wine with an herbs scent15-18%
Americano cocktail (first served in Italy in 1860): Campari liquor, vermouth, soda, and a slice of orange5-9%
Martini cocktail: Vermouth, gin, and olive/lemon twist28-29%
Bellini cocktail by Lake Como, Italy
Bellini cocktail by Lake Como, Italy

The drinking age in Italy if you are with parents

Good news: Young people’s drinking is socially accepted in Italy, even more so if parents are nearby. Unless you make a lot of noise and disturb others, everything will be okay.

If you are not an Italian parent, do not go too far with your rules. Give your minors a taste of wine if they ask – the forbidden fruit is sweet. Excessive forbiddings make youngsters more likely to binge once they start drinking with friends.

Eventually, your child will get drunk, and it is better they are not obsessed with the idea of drinking to spite their parents.

Additional questions

Can you drink alcohol at 16 in Italy?

Yes, you can. However, it is not legal to buy alcohol in Italy unless you are 18+

What is the drinking age in Milan, Rome, or Florence?

The legal drinking age in Italy applies to all cities and is relevant only for buying alcohol, and not consuming.

Can I drink alcohol in public in Italy?

Public drinking is not prohibited in Italy. In general, people in Italy don’t worry about what is generally accepted. Just don’t get too drunk.

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