This time last year, I was swanning through the South of France, driving through the countryside and enjoying the local produce as we stopped at tiny historic towns long the way.
There’s something magical about scoffing danishes made of pastry that was lighter than air on the side of the road, just before you wander through a 1000-year-old church.
The fact that a ham and cheese croissant with creamy béchamel sauce cost a mere 2 Euros, the equivalent of about Australian $3, made it even more memorable and enjoyable!
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It makes stories like this one, where a tourist couple was charged a whopping AU$700 for dinner for two in Rome, even more galling.
Apparently, after ordering two plates of spaghetti, some fish and water to wash it down, the couple were given a shocking $685 bill for the meals.
The restaurant, Antico Caffè di Marte, has claimed that their “menu is clear” and that “the reason they (the tourists) paid that price is because they not only ordered the spaghetti, but also the fish that was fresh”.
That doesn’t quite explain the massive $127 “service fee” though, does it?
It really gets my goat when businesses try to rip off unsuspecting tourists this way, especially when they rely on a language barrier to make it happen.
In this age of social media and prolific sharing online, it could become harder to pull off.
Right now, Rome seems to be a serial offender.
Earlier this year a café across the road from the Vatican was called out for charging tourists the equivalent of AU$130 for 3 coffees and a couple of hamburgers.
Around the same time, a group of six American tourists in Rome complained about being charged more than 800 Euros (around AU$1300) for a calamari and beer lunch – their final bill included an 18 Euro charge for tomato juice, and bottles of water at 17.80 Euro a pop (AU$30).
And at a café near the Spanish steps, some British travellers were charged 16 Euros each (AU$27) for ice-cream.
Moral of the story? If you’re going to Rome, pack your lunch before you head out – or a very high-limit credit card.