The opposition is protesting the government's plan to send Italy's aerial exhibition team to Libya to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the coup in which Moammar Gadhafi seized power.
The flap comes amid broader debate over Premier Silvio Berlusconi's decision to visit Libya despite the welcome Tripoli staged for the freed Lockerbie bomber.
Berlusconi is scheduled to meet Gadhafi on Sunday, the first anniversary of a treaty that compensated Libya for Italy's colonial rule and set joint measures to stem the tide of illegal migrants reaching Italian shores.
The trip is going ahead despite outrage in London and Washington over the reception Gadhafi gave terminally ill Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was freed last week by Scotland on compassionate grounds.
Opposition groups called for the visit to be scrapped after Gadhafi embraced al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.
On Tuesday, the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian air force's aerobatics team, will fly over Tripoli as part of celebrations of the Sept. 1, 1969, Libyan revolution, the Defense Ministry said.
The Democratic Party, the largest opposition group, brought the issue to parliament this week, deploring that Italy would be feting Gadhafi and demanding to know the cost to taxpayers.
"How much does it cost us Italians to clear the image of the Libyan dictator?" asked Democratic Senator Marco Perduca. "We are sending the symbol of our national pride and of our military to celebrate the anniversary of an antidemocratic revolution that established a dictatorship."
With the issue grabbing the front pages on Italian newspapers Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said expenses would be covered largely by the Libyans.
The acrobatics team "will now be cheered also by the Libyan people and this can only make us happy, especially in a phase in which diplomatic relations between Italy and Libya are greatly improving," said Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa.
He said the Italian government would only pay a daily bonus of ⁈430) to each soldier involved.