I enjoy wine but due to a medical condition my wife cannot imbibe. I usually order by the glass or half litre but since we are visiting an outstanding wine region on this trip I may want to order a bottle with a meal. Is it customary (or indeed permissible) to have an unfinished bottle recorked and take it away with me (as it is here where I live)? I'm guessing that the answer is probably no (just as one would not request a doggie bag) but thought I'd ask here on the forum.
Will that is a good question, hope someone can help with it, if not I suggest you try another website that has a very busy Italy specific forum.
I've never left a bottle unfinished, so I can't speak to your query directly... but I have purchased half-size bottles at restaurants before. They seemed to be common enough in Montalcino. I know ordering house wine isn't as exciting as ordering from a particular vineyard or vintage, but I've never had a bad glass of vino della casa in Italy's top wine regions.
If you've paid for the entire bottle I would absolutely take it, assuming there's plenty left. If there's like one small glass left I wouldn't bother. however, if you're not going to finish the bottle and it makes you uncomfortable, then why not just order a couple glasses instead of the whole bottle? Another option is to order the house wine - the house wine in Italy is very good and you can order by the half or quarter litre. Some restaurants will allow you to bring your own bottle in and just charge you a corking fee. I've never really understood why people think "doggy bags" are verboten here, we do it and have never had a problem anywhere.
The doggie bag has become more common in Italy in recent years. There was a custom in ancient Rome that at public feasts, the poor were allowed to take food away in sacks, so it could be that long cultural memory equates taking away leftovers with poverty and avoided doing it for two thousand years. I have been in restaurants lately where the server actually asked if I wanted to take the rest of my meal with me, so things change with inculturation. Next thing you know Romans will stop referring to public toilets as "vespasiani".
I have given a half-bottle or so to the neighboring table, resulting in lovely conversation and great appreciation. I have never been treated as if this is 'not done', but I don't do it at the very finest restaurants, where people might have chosen their pairings with great care and staff participation. To be frank, I prefer the younger wines now that I'm not, and the house wines are inexpensive to the point that you aren't discarding much in terms of money.
I think I remember the offer to take the unfinished bottle with us last time we were in Italy. I know we did that in France. The liquor laws in Italy are not as strict as here in the US...and here in Denver you can now take the bottle home with you. It could vary by location, so no reason to not ask BEFORE you order a bottle of wine. The staff can let you know so you can decide on a full bottle or half bottle, or carafe. Happy travels!
If they don't offer wines by the glass, the other option (and very economical) is to order the house wine. They usually come in mezzo and quarto carafes, if you don't want a full bottle. A mezzo is 0.5 liters, so it's 2/3 of a standard wine bottle (which is 0.75 liters). A quarto is 0.25 liters, so 1/3 of a standard wine bottle. But you shouldn't have any problem taking a half empty bottle away with you. Good idea to ask in advance.
I agree that the house wines are usually good to very good. It also seems to me that ordering "better" wines by the glass isn't much more than by the bottle. If you want to have wine for a picnic meal or in your hotel room, you'll save more by buying it at the supermarket than by taking half a bottle at restaurant prices. In Europe I always travel with a wine saver pump & cork.