2009 is off to a rocky start for Rome taxis, who say that a downturn in tourism and too much competition are hurting business.

According to taxi union Unica Taxi CGIL average earnings are down 30 per cent compared to last year. Union spokesman Nicola Di Giacobbe blamed a shortfall in fares to the airport, where an important source of Rome's taxi business is concentrated.

However, taxi drivers are also pointing to the 2,000 new taxi licenses issued by the former city council under the administration of Walter Veltroni, which has brought the total number of taxis in Rome up to 7,400