ROME // On a cobbled street moments from Termini train station, Beatrice Romane, 29, and Foued Berhouche, 23, sit outside a pizzeria. They are locked in something of a Romeo & Juliet dilemma.
Beatrice lives with her parents in Venice, working as a barmaid and earning €1,000 (Dh4,983.25) a month. Foued also lives with his family, but in Rome, where he is unemployed.
Luckily, the couple's parents are not from rival families who forbid them from seeing each other, but the pair do have other obstacles keeping them apart.
Having been together for four years, the star-crossed Italians see each other just six times a year because the train fare between the cities is €150 for a return.
"Four years ago the train was €50 and 10 years ago it was €25 equivalent in lira," says Mr Berhouche. "Since the euro, it has been going up and up."
In the only job she could find, Ms Romane works six days a week and cannot justify the nearly five-hour trip to Rome for only one day.
"I want him to move to Venice, but it's very, very expensive and we cannot afford an apartment or house," Ms Romane explains. "He's not the only one without a job, there's a lot of people without work in Italy."
The situation is also not likely to improve any time soon for the couple as Italy begins harsh austerity measures and economic growth is set to splutter next year, at just 0.3 per cent.
Ms Romane comes from a wealthy family, as her father owns a factory outside Venice that sells the famous Murano glass, but she does not want to live off her parents' money like many young Italians are forced to do.
"I feel like crying to my father and mother, but I cannot do that, I'm 29 years old," she says bitterly. "But if I did that, my father would do anything for me. My father is rich, he has a boat and I have all that I want, but I do not want to cry in front of them. I have some dignity, I want to live for myself."
Italians throughout the country are in a similar situation to Mr Berhouche and Ms Romane as they are forced to takes jobs where they can, rather than where they want to live.
Sitting outside Rome's main station, the couple blame the economy, the euro and the government for their plight. But most of all, they blame Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy.
"All Italians are angry with the government, but there's nobody to replace Berlusconi," Ms Romane says. "The situation with the euro is not good now. Berlusconi has two to three months of life then he has to go."
David Doninotti, the secretary general of the Italian Association of Foreign Trade, agrees that Mr Berlusconi's profile is not helping an economy in already dire circumstances.
"Our reputation abroad is not high at the moment due to the things that are happening to our prime minister, so it's hard to do business abroad," he explains somewhat downheartedly, given his role to promote Italian business to the world.
Mr Berlusconi has been embroiled in numerous scandals in recent years and is now a defendant in three trials.
But Mr Doninotti is less confident than Ms Romane that the prime minister will go.
"He will not resign, for sure, and the coalition government is very united so they are defending their interest," he says.
Mr Doninotti adds that one of the first jobs for any new government in Italy will be to stimulate growth through stamping out corruption, which is rife in Italy.
"We see a lot of bad cities that are involved in bad situations, receiving money and so on," Mr Doninotti explains. "The thing you have to understand is that this is a total system, not only a few cities."
A generation of youth has been lost in this "total system" of corruption and an environment in the south, which has made little of its investments.
Like our present-day Romeo & Juliet, Daniele, 35, is a modern gladiator with a labour issue.
He does not fight in the Colosseum, with the roar of excited crowds and the fear of death puncturing the air.
He instead wears a fancy dress outfit, brandishes a wooden sword, and persuades tourists at the bustling Trevi Fountain to pay for a picture with him.
Daniele, who is Roman and wanted to be known only as Daniele the Gladiator, has been play-acting for 10 years, seven days a week, seven hours a day.
"I'd prefer to do another thing but with the situation here it's not easy," explains the gladiator. "It was not easy to find a job at 25, but at 35, it's even more difficult. I do this because there are no chances for work."
He earns enough money to reach the end of the month, but says the size of the tips have been falling dramatically this summer, from an average of about €15 to below €10.
"The crisis is not just an Italian crisis, it is global so has affected many people," he says. "I work with tourists from all over the world but with the Americans it is a bit different because of the currency rate and they spend less money than in the past."
A few steps away from Daniele and the famous Trevi fountain, gangsta rap is blaring from a small souvenir shop, selling an eclectic array of holiday souvenirs.
Standing among Venetian masks, skulls and "I heart Roma" mugs, Emiciano Lena, 36, explains that sales have fallen 20 per cent to 30 per cent this summer compared with last year.
"This is one of the best spots," he explains. "The Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon are considered best for tourists."
But he says people are spending less and there are more souvenir shops, so there is increasing competition.
"I often speak with other shop owners and we are worried if the worst is still to come," he says. "It all depends on the international crisis."
Legend has it that if you toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain you will once again have the privilege of returning to Rome.
Given the economic situation, the fountain might see fewer euros from now on.