Sexy Italian minister in damage control mode after rip-off reports

When a huge portion of your economy depends on tourism money, the last thing you want is a lot of bad press about how your country is ripping off tourists.

So, it must really suck to be Italy this week. After two Japanese tourists contacted local Rome police about an insane dinner bill, the government has finally announced plans to combat these scams.

The Japanese couple hadn’t even ordered anything too outrageous – it was a fairly basic restaurant, with a pretty normal Italian dinner of spaghetti, a bottle of wine and some ice cream. The bill for this dinner should have been about $100, but the restaurant tried to make them pay over $1000, including a “mandatory” $160 tip.

Of course, when news of this scam hit the Japanese press, Italy quickly began to feel the pain. So much in fact, that the tourism minister wrote an open letter apologizing, and trying to convince future tourists that the Italian government would do everything in its power to prevent these scams.

This couldn’t come at a worse moment – the Italian tourism industry is in the middle of a perfect storm. Some tourism operators are seeing drops of up to 60% in customers. Even popular destinations like Florence are down 20%, with some hotels so desperate that they are considering closing for a couple of months.

The Italian tourism minister, Michela Brambilla was recently appointed by Silvio Berlusconi himself, and a quick look at her photos will probably explain why (slightly NSFW photos posted after the jump).