Florence freeloader and the art of the free lunch

Caffe-Giacosa

ROME: Is there no such thing as a free lunch? That’s not true in Florence, where a German man dubbed the “serial scrounger” has been tucking into on-the-house treats in some of the Italian tourist magnet’s swankiest establishments.

When presented with a bill, Roland Siedler routinely replies, “The Italians will pay, I’m German,” Corriere della Sera reported yesterday.

At one favourite haunt, the historic Caffe Giacosa owned by fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, he left a note informing staff: “The Catholic Church has paid.”

The 38-year-old reportedly displayed similar nonchalance while downing single malt whiskies in the Bar Palazzo Vecchio next to the famous city hall and as he scoffed a T-bone steak washed down with Chianti Classico at a prestigious restaurant in the nearby Tuscan wine country.

Local police have picked up and cautioned Siedler several times. But they appear powerless to stop the audacious freeloading of a rough sleeper they describe as crafty but courteous and fluent in at least three languages.

Any offence Siedler has committed is considered too minor for him to be detained and it is not clear if he could be successfully prosecuted.

Italy’s highest court ruled last year that stealing small amounts of food to stave off hunger is not a crime by overturning the conviction and prison sentence of a homeless man who had shoplifted cheese and sausages worth €4.07 (RM20).

The judges did, however, specify that this only applied in cases of “immediate and essential need” for food, a benchmark lawyers might struggle to have applied to Siedler’s taste for premium tipples.