The mayor of Venice has branded tourists who complained about being charged €526 ($797) for lunch in a restaurant close to St Mark's Square as "cheapskates".
Luigi Brugnaro, who has a reputation for plain-speaking, said the visitors should have learnt Italian - and even some Venetian dialect - so they could have understood what was being delivered to their table.
He made the remarks after Luke Tang, a university lecturer from Birmingham, said he and his 70-year-old parents were appalled to be presented with the bill after eating at the Trattoria Casanova at the weekend.
Mr Tang, 40, wrote an open letter to the mayor, saying he felt as though he had been cheated and warning that such conduct would besmirch Venice's reputation. He also sent it to Italy's national news agency, ensuring it got widespread press coverage.
In similar cases where foreign tourists have been over-charged in Italy, cities such as Rome have apologised and even offered them a free holiday. But in an interview on Italian television, Mr Brugnaro took a very different tack.
"They're cheapskates," he said. "Someone eats and drinks in a restaurant, then says they cannot understand the language? If you come to Italy, you need to learn Italian, maybe even a few words of Venetian would be good, too."
The mayor said the Tangs ate everything they were served and did not complain at the time.
"They ate lobster. They left nothing on their plates. They didn't even leave a tip. If you come to Venice, you need to shell out a bit. You're welcome, but you need to spend."
Mr Tang accused the waiters in the restaurant of taking advantage of the fact that neither he nor his parents spoke any Italian.
In his letter to the mayor, he wrote: "I do not expect there will be any refund, but I wanted to draw your attention (to) the behaviour of this business, (which) will ruin the reputation of Venice. It is disgraceful and indeed the shame of Venice."
Mr Brugnaro, a former businessman and a centre-Right politician, has expressed forceful opinions in the past. At a conference on terrorism and radicalism, he said that if any terrorist was thinking of attacking his city, they would be gunned down by security forces within seconds.
"If someone shouts 'Allah Akbar' while running through St Mark's Square, we'll shoot them," he said. "A year ago, I said [they would be shot] after four steps. Now I'm saying it would happen after three."
He also issued the warning in Venetian dialect, telling his audience "Ghe sparemo" - "We'll shoot them".
The Telegraph, London
See also: The 20 must-do highlights of Venice
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