All is not well in the Italian Peninsula, and there are few things that can inspire Garibaldi‘s Redshirts to go marching again like the price of that all-important daily staple of life: the espresso. This week, the Milan-based national paper, Corriere della Sera, reported on the shocking surprise many Italians received upon their return from their obligatory August vacations: the price of an espresso now costs €1 in many major Italian cities. (Il caffè? Dopo le vacanze costerà un euro – Corriere della Sera.) This represents a sudden price-hike of between 20¢ and 30¢ per cup since the beginning of August.

In protest of the price hikes, Italian consumer associations are calling for a national boycott of espresso at bars across Italy on September 13. The papers are calling it, “lo sciopero della tazzina” (the “strike of the coffee cup”: «Il caffè a un euro? Sciopero della tazzina» – ViviMilano). September 13 also marks the date for a more general shopping strike to protest the price increases in other staples such as bread, pasta, milk, and train tickets.

Industry groups have countered that the price of a caffè at an espresso bar has not risen for five years, and hence the price hike is inevitable and necessary (Milano prepara il caro-tazzina: caffè a un euro – ViviMilano). They have denied some consumer claims of an espresso cartel. Meanwhile, the Italian business association Confesercenti has taken a different tactic — providing research showing that prices have remained relatively unchanged ( Prezzi: Fiepet Confesercenti, “evitare allarmismi, nessun cartello per aumentare la tazzina di caffè” – Confesercenti Italia. Sito Ufficiale).

Tempest in a tea cup? Wait until the Italian Sons of Liberty get their hands on some espresso…

Roots of a consumer revolt in Italy?