A litre of unleaded petrol at most Italian petrol stations went up from 1.199 to 1.249 in the first week of April. Add an increase of 0.05 per litre for medium-large sized cars and the price rise for a full tank becomes 2.45.

But the soaring price is not only hitting consumers pockets: it is also pushing up inflation. A monthly increase of 0.036 per litre translates, say experts, into a 0.1 per cent rise in inflation, triggering vociferous complaints from consumer bodies, unions and industry. The consumer and environmental protection body, Codacons, is already warning that consumers will vote with their feet if no solution is found. The only light at the end of the tunnel: Italys oil dependence is due to drop from 45.6 per cent in 2004 to 36.4 per cent by 2020.