Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has met President Giorgio Napolitano amid fears that Europe’s debt crisis might spread to Italy.
It comes three days after parliament passed a multi-billion euro austerity package, bringing forward belt-tightening measures that are unpopular with many Italians.
Even within the governing coalition, there are signs of dissent from Umberto Bossi’s Northern League.
Seven regions are refusing to put in place what’s known as the “ticket” system involving new health charges.
People will have to pay 10 euros for medical visits and 25 euros for non-emergency care at hospitals.
“50-60 euros in tickets per month, look at how many prescriptions there are,” said one pensioner, horrified at the cost of the vouchers in his wife’s bag.
“Look at what we pay for here in Sicily,” said another man. “Does everything run smoothly, do health services work? I don’t think so.”
Many Italians bearing the brunt of the austerity budget accuse politicians of double standards.
One leading newspaper Corriere della Sera attacked MPs for forcing ordinary people to pay for higher health charges while delaying a rise in the cost of their own special health insurance.
“(The politicians) don’t understand that by refusing to make sacrifices themselves they risk dropping a spark into a tinder box,” the paper said in an editorial.