No visit to Rome is complete without a gelato but a group of British tourists got a nasty shock when they were charged 64 euros (£54) for four ice creams.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Their complaints about the exorbitant price have rekindled a debate over the rip-offs perpetrated by many shops, businesses and tourist operators in the city.
Roger Bannister, his brother Steven and their wives Wendy and Joyce were astounded to be charged 16 euros (£13.50) each on Sunday after ordering four ice creams at the Antica Roma bar and gelateria close to the Spanish Steps.
"And when we paid up, they didn't even say thank you," Mr Bannister, of Birmingham, told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Monday, holding up the receipt to prove the amount he had been charged.
Cafes and bars in Italy double or triple their prices for customers who choose to sit down at a table, but the British group did not even do that – they bought the ice creams to take away.
They were on a six day holiday to Italy and could not believe they had been charged so much. "It's incredible. It can't be normal, can it?" Mr Bannister said.
The managers of the bar in Via della Vite confirmed that the British tourists had been charged 64 euros but insisted the ice creams were worth the money because they were large.
"We're not talking about one or two scoops, they are really big," a manager, who declined to give her name, said.
"No one forced them to order big ice creams. We also serve small ones which only cost 2.50 euros. But if you want a lot of ice cream then it is worth the price. And the prices are displayed everywhere." The British visitors could have been stung for even more money – the largest gelato offered by the bar costs 25 euros, with whipped cream on top costing an extra 3.50 euros.
Officials in Rome said it was shameful that the tourists had been charged so much and that such practises harmed the image of Italy.
"It's a scandal and it should be treated as such," said Matteo Costantini, a city councillor. "It's not the first time that things like this have happened." In 2009 a restaurant near Piazza Navona, one of the city's most popular with tourists, massively overcharged a Japanese couple for dinner, handing them a bill for 695 euros.
The mayor of Rome called for the closure of the top-end Passetto restaurant, which counts among its former customers Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Tourist touts dressed as Roman centurions and legionaries frequently charge tourists exorbitant prices for the privilege of a photograph in front of the Colosseum and are subjected to regular but largely ineffective crackdowns by the authorities.