Italian Drinking Laws: What’s the Legal Age?

Nadia Podrabinek Nadia Podrabinek

Written by Nadia Podrabinek

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. 

What people say on Reddit

In Italy the law is different from the U.S.A. At 18 y.o. you are considered an adult and there are no limits on the age for buying or drinking alcohol when you entered adulthood; in addition we don’t demonize alcohol as you do in the States. It’s another culture, here it’s normal for teenagers to taste alcoholic beverages from the glass of your parents when eating out, in the us the runner freaked out because i looked younger than 21…


In general it would not be weird for a 16 years old to have a beer or two. Pubs and shops cannot legally sell any alcol to an underage (18 years old), but its not illegal to drink, just sell.

Prohibiting alcol all together only makes kids more likely to binge once they can drink unsupervised.

Long story short, if you all go to a pizzeria and order a beer each nobody will complain most likely. But if you go to a Pub they might stop your kids from ordering.


I would suggest you to encourage your 16yo and 17yo to share a glass of wine or beer (half a serve of alcohol for each kid) taking little sips during a nice family dinner. One reason behind many teens develop a alcohol habit is because it’s forbidden and going against the rule makes it very cool and rebellious. Encouraging them to try will make this coolness feeling instantly disappear.


Don’t worry! Teenage drinking in Italy is socially accepted, even more so if there is a parent nearby. It would be very strange if anyone bothers your family because of that, unless you are causing some kind of trouble. Moreover I think teenage drinking is widespread across the country, or, at least, that’s what I see on the streets every saturday and what I did when I was 16.


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.

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. 

Read also: Best Italian Beer Brands

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%

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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