A total of 151 vehicles, including 40 BMWs, are up for sale — a fraction of a 60,000-strong fleet owned by Italy’s public bodies that the state estimates costs over €1bn a year to run.
The auction is unlikely to make a dent in Italy’s €2 trillion debt. But it is widely seen as a highly visible and symbolic move by Matteo Renzi, the new prime minister.
Popular fury at the luxuries enjoyed by the political elite at a time of economic hardship helped the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement sweep up a quarter of votes in its first national election a year ago.
But Renzi, who took power in a February party coup, has sought to transform the public mood with promises of tax cuts, ambitious reforms, and a less ostentatious style.
He drove to a meeting with his predecessor Enrico Letta, shortly before he replaced him, at the wheel of a blue Smart car.
Nine Maseratis are also on offer at the auction, which runs until mid-April.
Italian media reported they were the cars that became the subject of heated debate when they were ordered by the defence ministry shortly before the government of Silvio Berlusconi collapsed at the peak of the eurozone debt crisis.