Skip to main content

$84 gelati! Greatest travel rip off?

By Andrew Demaria, CNN
May 7, 2013 -- Updated 2124 GMT (0524 HKT)
Would Kim Kardashian sneeze at a $20 gelato? (File photo)
Would Kim Kardashian sneeze at a $20 gelato? (File photo)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • British tourists charged $84 for four gelati in Rome
  • Some travel related charges like visas are unavoidable
  • It's the avoidable rip offs that sting travelers most
  • What's your worst travel rip off?

(CNN) -- Many moons ago, when backpacking around Europe, I decided to treat myself to a gelato in the Italian city of Florence.

It had been a few tough days of not really appreciating the art, architecture and history enough -- no matter how many hours I had devoted to museums. The feet were sore and the mind was well, over it. After all, at some point, ancient cathedrals all start to look the same.

"How many flavors?" I was asked.

The ice cream was beautifully presented in that Italian way that makes the gelati look soft, smooth and perplexingly weightless. In hindsight, the well-polished checkered tile floor and pristine, clear glass display cabinets should have alerted me that this was no ordinary gelati joint.

Being greedy and indecisive, but mostly greedy, I opted for three.

The attendant got her gelati scraper spoony thing and proceeded to lavish layer upon layer of lemon, strawberry and pistachio ice cream, to create the Monte Bianco of cones.

My eyes were huge.

They got bigger when she asked me to pay. The amount, it was lire back then, roughly translated to about $30 -- way out of budget for any tight-fisted backpacker, let alone an Australian.

The only thing greater than my outrage at the cost was the look of disdain on the attendant's face when I un-artfully negotiated the cost of the gelato down to around $10 (still way too high in my opinion, but it was a tricky situation and I wanted to pretend I had at least some pride).

She artfully negotiated her scraper spoony thing around the ice cream and shaved off way more than two thirds, leaving me with the undernourished, poor cousin of what was once a giant gelato cone.

Lesson learned. Don't order more than you can afford and avoid posh, well-positioned shops near tourist sites. And don't do pistachio. Among gelati royalty, lemon, or limone, remains king and queen.

British tourists stung

A similar lesson hit a group of British tourists this week in Rome, according to media reports.

They got stung 64 euros ($84) for four gelati. Chicken feed, I say when compared to my ice cream incident, at a smidgen over $20 per gelato.

According to one report, the Via della Vite managers confirmed the cost of the treats and defended the pricing, saying they were large ice creams.

"No one forced them to order big ice creams. We also serve small ones which only cost €2.50 ($3.30). But if you want a lot of ice cream then it is worth the price. And the prices are displayed everywhere," a manager told the UK's The Daily Telegraph.

According to the report, the tourists coughed up the money.

"And when we paid up, they didn't even say thank you," Mr Bannister, of Birmingham was quoted as saying.

You'd hope it was pretty tasty.

This leads to this question, what has been your biggest travel rip off?

Sure, we all moan about costs of visas (I am singling you out, Uncle Sam and your $160 non-refundable visa processing fee. Oh, and you too, Mr $250-a-day Bhutan), international phone roaming and hotel Wi-Fi but often those charges are simply unavoidable.

It is the ones we are not prepared for, such as a super dooper pricey ice cream cone, that often sting us most.

We've all had our own version of the Great Firenze Incident of 2000, so get out the gelati spatula and serve up your greatest, or worst, travel rip off in the comments box below.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)
Where to pay homage to the cutest local celebrities you'll ever stalk.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
For air travelers who like to gripe about being cramped in economy, here comes another warning that they've never had it so good.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Cream cakes from the Ruszwurm bakery in Budapest, Hungary
Proving they're what's really important, the world's best pastry shops have survived survived sieges, revolutions and World War II.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Lois Pryce ignored naysayers and traveled 3,000 miles via motorcycle to discover the real Iran.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0320 GMT (1120 HKT)
Built at a cost of $442.2 million, Universal Studios Japan hopes its new Potter attraction will bring in $55 billion over 10 years.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
A scene in Marrakech
The gateway to Morocco's Atlas Mountains is becoming a photographer's paradise -- but capturing it on camera isn't easy.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 2136 GMT (0536 HKT)
Cathay Pacific was pronounced the world's best airliner of the year at the industry's leading awards ceremony in Farnborough on Tuesday.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
Britain has stolen a march in the space race with plans for the world's first spaceport outside the U.S.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
In the hunt for the world's best amusement park, the people have spoken -- and it seems the people like mixing with creatures who eat a lot of fish.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0611 GMT (1411 HKT)
An Hellenic Seaplanes aircraft
Seaplane network set to open up far-flung destinations to affordable jet-setting tours.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
A man who took a dangerous selfie during the running of the bulls in Pamplona, with the half-ton beasts right behind him, is still on the run -- but this time from the police.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)
Its cramped rooms and retro lobby are dated, but its charm and devotion to customers are worth preserving.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 0553 GMT (1353 HKT)
A young girl sits on a bench decorated with an image of Paddington Bear.
As part of a scheme to encourage reading, 50 benches designed in the style of popular novels or kids' stories have been scattered around London.
July 12, 2014 -- Updated 0101 GMT (0901 HKT)
To all the locals who have been hoarding the following beaches, please forgive us.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Jason Hullinger, a computer security architect in Los Angeles, went to Joshua Tree National Park in December to catch the Geminid meteor shower.
CNN iReporters from across the globe share their incredible images of the skies above us.
ADVERTISEMENT