The Italian Almanac

ice cream

Parliamentary Ice Cream

Italian politicians have raised eyebrows by demanding cheap parliamentary ice cream amid widespread anger at perks and pay. Senators Rocco Buttiglione of the centre-right opposition and Albertina Soliani of the centre-left government asked upper-house administrators to lay on gelato "to improve quality of life" in the chamber. Serving ice cream - at the heavily discounted rates Italian politicians enjoy - would provide "a requirement of people's daily life," said the bipartisan appeal.

The demand came amid polls showing a plunge in public trust for politicians - portrayed in a recent bestselling book as wallowing in cash and privileges. At least one Senator didn't agree with the gelato-loving pair, however. Senator Antonio Del Pennino said such requests "could only further dent the image of government representatives". Del Pennino, a member of the centrist Republican Party, added: "I like ice cream a lot but I leave the Senate and go and get it in Piazza Navona.

Italian Senators take home more than 20,000 euros a month, about the same as their lower-house colleagues in the Chamber of Deputies. The two houses enjoy meals which would cost a pretty penny in Rome's increasingly overpriced restaurants but barely make a nick in their ample budgets. Gourmet items like truffles, white-buffalo meat and fine wines go for a handful of euros and some things are virtually free.

Despite their slim expenses, politicians still aren't happy. Earlier this year Deputies were taken aback when they found they didn't have free hairdressing services like Senators. They were also surprised to learn their fruit portions weren't free - although they'd assumed as much by walking out of the dining room without paying.