Reports of taxi drivers ripping off unsuspecting tourists in Rome and other major Italian cities are nothing new.
But this week, Rome’s local authority has pledged to take action – at least against unscrupulous drivers operating out of the city’s airports – after two foreign correspondents based in the city sharing their accounts of being overcharged.
The BBC’s correspondent in Italy, Mark Lowen, took to Twitter on Tuesday to share the story of how a friend was charged €70 for a journey from Fiumicino airport to the city centre – a trip that has a fixed cost of €50.
The driver also claimed his credit card machine was not working and so he could only take payment in cash, Lowen said.
His story struck a chord with many of Rome’s residents and visitors, with the tweet shared hundreds of times and the city’s mayor repeatedly tagged by social media users.
Taxi at Fiumicino picking up a friend visiting. First claims it’s 70€ to central Rome (it’s 50). Then says credit card machine isn’t working, so only cash. Then says he has no internet (it “recharges at midnight”) so has no GPS. Benvenuto a Roma.
— Mark Lowen (@marklowen) July 26, 2022
Another of Rome’s foreign correspondents, Gavin Jones at Reuters, described his own bad experiences with Rome airport taxis in a Twitter thread last month, noting that “there’s nowhere obvious to queue for a taxi at Ciampino” and that a driver quoted 40 euros for a ride that “should cost 20 at most”.
The city now plans to launch a new service for arrivals at both Ciampino and Fiumicino airports aimed at preventing rip-offs and reporting rogue drivers, according to the city’s tourism councillor, Alessandro Onorato.
“The illegalities that we have found in the airport areas are truly shameful,” Onarato told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday.
Commenting on Lowen’s tweet, he said the incident was “unacceptable”.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to make a note of the licence number, plate or operator name. In that case we would have report these serious irregularities to the police.”
Onorato said city police and airport authorities were already collaborating to increase the number of checks carried out on the taxi sector, “leading to an increase in regular journeys in the first half of this year by 58 percent compared to the previous year”.
Starting on Tuesday, they also plan to “set up a steward service to welcome passengers at international arrivals, providing timely information to tourists and collaborating with the police to report irregularities,” he said.
Rome’s Fiumicino previously launched a similar initiative in 2020, providing special paths to guide tourists towards licenced taxis and employing security guards to “protect” them from being approached by unauthorised drivers.
But Rome residents and visitors also regularly accuse licenced taxi drivers of unscrupulous behaviour, with many suggesting that the best option is to avoid taxis altogether when travelling to or from the airports.
While Uber isn’t necessarily a cheaper option and isn’t widely used, it does exist in Rome (and Milan). Other frequently recommended options for hailing a reliable cab service include the FreeNow app (in most cities or major towns in Italy) and the Samarcanda taxi company (in Rome).
Public transport options from Fiumicino include the Leonardo Express, a direct train into the city which costs €14 and takes half an hour, or a shuttle bus to Termini train station, with several different services available and tickets costing around six euros.