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The Colosseum is seen in the background as taxi drivers block the famous Fori Imperiali road in downtown Rome, November 29, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli

ROME (Reuters Life!) – Rome’s largest taxi cooperative is trying to improve the bad name of the city’s cabbies, notorious among tourists to one of the world’s best loved cities.

A ride from either of Rome’s airports to the center of the Italian capital can cost twice what it should, with drivers often squabbling over the right to carry apparently inexperienced visitors and inventing excuses not to pick up locals.

That is set to end, according to Radiotaxi 3570, which has launched a system for tourists to pay on line before they leave home.

“We want to change the public’s perceptions about Rome taxi drivers,” said 3570’s Chairman Loreno Bittarelli at a press presentation, adding that the same services would soon be available in other large Italian cities.

The on-line booking system will also allow tourists to order a cabbie who speaks English, French, Spanish or German. Another scheme will let customers order and pay via telephone text message.

Improving the image of taxi drivers is part of a broader attempt to spruce up services for visitors and end scams.

A colorful billboard campaign recently launched by the town council announces: “Rome loves tourists.”

Under the slogan: “Be smart, don’t try to be clever,” the posters tell taxi drivers, hoteliers and shopkeepers that “more honesty and transparency help you and your city.”

Reporting by Gavin Jones; editing by Robin Pomeroy

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