It's the latest in a string of incidents of tourists in Italy being overcharged for food, and made headlines across the world after the residents' organization Gruppo 25 Aprile shared the customers' story.
The four Japanese customers, who were studying at university in Bologna, filed a complaint with police about their meal near the iconic St Mark's Square.
“We defend local residents, and whoever puts the good name of Venice at risk harms all Venetians,” said the Gruppo 25 Aprile in a tweet. The organization also said it planned to publish a handbook on 'surviving Venice' ahead of the annual carnival which starts on Sunday.
The restaurant owner on the other hand told local daily Venezia Today he “did not remember having any problems with any Japanese clients”.
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Venice is a pricey city at the best of times, but tension between local business-owners and the steadily increasing number of visitors has contributed to some ill-feeling towards tourists.
In November 2017, a British family complained about a €500 bill for lunch near St Mark's Square, with one of the party saying waiters had taken advantage of their lack of Italian skills to bring them expensive dishes they did not order. That came shortly after a Japanese couple was charged €120 for a plate of lobster at a central Venice trattoria, though they were able to get the bill reduced by 40 percent, with the help of another customer.
At the time, Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro branded the group “cheapskates” and said: “I applaud the restauranteur who issued the bill. If you come to Venice, you should know that you're Venice, you have to spend some money. In fact, leave a tip for all the people who are there working for you.”
However, after the most recent incident was reported around the world, Brugnaro said that if the “shameful episode” was confirmed to be true, city authorities would punish those responsible.
In July last year, The Local spoke to two local residents who had set up an online portal, Authentic Venice, aiming to offer tourists a genuine experience and avoid being overcharged by promoting local businesses.
It's not only the northern lagoon city where unsuspecting tourists risk being ripped off; stories of visitors being hit by unexpectedly high bills are relatively common in all the big cities.
Some of the things to be aware of are a 'coperto' (cover charge), which is typically around €1-3 per person but might be inflated, and only written on the menu in small print, in some eateries, and an extra charge for sitting down at a table (rather than having a coffee at the bar) or for sitting at an outdoor table.
In 2013, when a group of British tourists in Rome were charged €64 for four ice creams, authorities were so embarrassed by the subsequent uproar that they were invited back to the city to experience the best of Italian hospitality.
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