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As Italians are about to vote in what some have dubbed 'the most important election in 30 years', the future of the country is as uncertain as ever.

Stuck between an industrialist North and a poorer South, torn apart by merciless markets and internal dysfunction, trapped between a failed 'Super Mario' technocratic government and Italian politics-as-usual - it's impossible to predict what Italy will look like in a year – or a week.

Is Beppe Grillo's 'anti-politics' movement losing its novelty effect? Could Berlusconi make a predictable, yet spectacular comeback? Will Monti enter a coalition with Bersani's Democrats? Will a rise of smaller parties contribute to the fractionalisation of Italian politics? And could extreme factions benefit from the overall cacophony?

In short - how did Italy get here, and can it get back on track?

A selection of our articles on Italy from the last year.

Searching for a new debate on immigration in Europe

In the current debate on immigration in Europe, confusion and populist bias came to the fore once again during the latest elections to the European Parliament. This is especially true of Italy, whose long coastline witnessed an increased number of arrivals in the first half of 2014.

Arrivederci, Veneto?

What was behind the "unofficial" referendum on Venetian independence? Why was it so popular? And could we soon be saying arrivederci to Veneto?

Berlusconi: has the Artful Dodger met his match?

Unlike Oliver Twist's friend, Berlusconi will not end up in a penal colony, or indeed in a prison cell, but will continue to be an uncomfortable presence in Italian political life. For how long?

All quiet on the Italian front?

After the seemingly unending crisis that followed this February's elections, Italian politics seem to have finally found some stability. And yet, recent events may be the sign of greater trouble to come.

The Italian government's doomed quest for stability

When the only thing holding a coalition together is fear of the voters, instability is just around the corner. 

The youngest face of Italy’s old politics: Enrico Letta’s “grand coalition”

Does Enrico Letta's newly formed government have what it takes to get Italy out of its dire situation, or is it nothing but a new layer of paint on the crumbling house of Italian politics?

How the Italian left ceased to exist

The election of the new President of the Republic ended up in a mess for the Democratic Party, devastating both its cohesion and political capital. Is this the end of the road for an united Italian left?

Italy: the equivocal calm between storms

After several candidates failed to be elected to the presidency, the Italian parliament gave an unprecedented second mandate to Giorgio Napolitano, the 87-year-old incumbent. Will this be enough to get Italy out of its political jam?

No country for wise men

From PM Monti's technocracy to President Napolitano's ten 'wise men', Italy is turning to technical expertise to rescue it from political lethargy. But the rise (and fall) of Italy's technocrats only hides the chronic frictions between the country's political class and its educated – and forgotten – youth. 

Italy wants change. But the time hasn't come yet

The last elections have shown that voters demand the beginning of a new political season. Unfortunately, what's happening in the aftermath is the exact opposite.

Italy 2013: collapse, revolution or renaissance?

It is a strange country that risks killing off Europe having been one of its founding and most reliable members. To move away from the sterile politics of the past twenty years, Italy has to come up with something new - but what?

Lega Nord's last temptation: anti-politics in the time of Grillo

The rise of Grillo's 5 Star Movement marks Italy's ongoing disaffection towards its political caste. In the early 1990s, the Northern League gave voice to a similar feeling. But times have changed. Surfing on a wave of anti-politics with no sound political programme may be a dangerous strategy.

Hoping for an Italian Spring?

More widely, what the M5S’ success represents is a challenge to the approach to economic reform which has too often rewarded the rich responsible for the problems, while making the working classes pay for Europe’s economic mess.

Italy's 'Perfect storm'

More than a week after the elections, the situation in Italy is as hazy as ever, with no obvious way out of the political deadlock.

The Italian puzzle - austerity, corruption, and the man next door

The chaos that followed the Italian elections might be the foretaste of bigger changes to come. But which ones?

And the winner is... Reflections on post-electoral politics in Italy

With no clear winner emerging out of the election, a new era of uncertainty opens for Italian politics. How can the country get out of the post-electoral impasse?

The Front of the Ordinary Man

In the wake of the Italian elections, this excerpt from ‘Stagioni del populismo italiano’ examines populism in Italy’s political past and present. How did Guglielmo Giannini’s Qualunquismo movement influence the most recent forms of populism: those of the former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and comedian-turned-politician, Beppe Grillo?

Sowing the seeds of an Italian spring

The Italian election resulted in a deadlock with no clear winner. But while Italy is stuck between politics as usual and a sterile protest vote, the seeds of a ‘liberal revolution’ have discretely been sown. Could this mark the beginning of an Italian spring?

Beppe Grillo's Five Star revolution

There is no telling what the outcome of today's remarkably uncertain Italian elections will be. But the real story might just be Beppe Grillo's Movimento 5 Stelle, which could become the third political force in the country, and set a model for others in Europe to follow.

Six characters in search of a country - the Italian vote elsewhere in Europe

As Italy is heading to the polls on Sunday for ‘the most important election in 30 years’, the vote of Italians living abroad will partly determine the formation of the next government. How do these expats feel about Italian politics, and how are they going to vote?

Postmodern populism: the cultural logic of the MoVimento 5 Stelle

Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement has often been called a shake-up for Italian politics. But what if 'M5S' really obeyed an established paradigm that is far from the revolutionary ideas it claims to convey?

Of power and democracy: the rise and fall of Mario Monti

In November 2011, Mario Monti, an academic and former European Commissioner, was seen as the providential man to save Italy from its troubles. Now, only one year and a few months later, he is trailing behind in the polls and set to lose the upcoming elections. What happened?

Berlusconi's shadow: hope to fear

Silvio Berlusconi has survived ejection and scandal to return to the centre of Italian politics. But it is his opponents more than the man himself who carry the blame for his continuing influence, says Geoff Andrews.

2013 Italy elections: no winner, only losers

The run-up to the next national elections in Italy (to be held on 24/25 February) is marked by two trends that have already troubled the country's political life in the past years: fragmentation and political instability.

While Rome was burning: Berlusconi and the politics of Italy’s patronage

On the day of his resignation, many in Italy held up signs saying "game over for Berlusconi". On the contrary, this is where the game begins, says Andrea Teti. This piece was first published on November 14, 2011.

Move aside, now it's up to us: Italy’s political quake

Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement is not the antithesis to politics, nor is it the end of democracy; on the contrary, it demonstrates that activism in Italy is alive and kicking.

Nine out of ten: the losers of Italy's long crisis

Every ultra-rich person has the income of 100 poor people. But this is not Dickensian England or Depression-era America. It is the Italy of today. Halting the rise of the super-rich will be a crucial issue for the politics of the future.

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