Italian Lira Scam Continues to Dog Sloppy Tourists
|Don't confuse the new €2 at left (value $3) with the old 500 lira coin at right (value $0).|
By Rick Steves
For a generation, tourists were being ripped off by Italian merchants who rightly figured we couldn't keep track of all the zeros. We all celebrated when Italy's miniscule lira was replaced by Europe's dollar-like Euro. But the ghost of the lira remains to haunt us — not only in Italy but now, all over Europe.
Here's the scam: The old 500 lira coin (worth about $.25 before the Euro made it worthless in 2001) is the same size and design (silver outer ring with inlaid copper middle) as the new €2 coin (worth $3). Countless tourists are finding the old 500 lira coins in their pockets. I did — just last month. Each one you take costs you $3 and the only person dumb enough to take it from you is another tourist. Europeans never touch a coin the size of a €2 without verifying that it is actually €2. Study the photos here — the lira was passed off on me on my last trip. You are now warned!
For more on European travel scams, visit our Graffiti Wall.