Italy was the first and most hardly hit country in Europe by COVID-19. The strictly enforced lockdown in Lombardy and then in the entire country represented a traumatic turn in the citizens’ individual lives and in the economy as a whole. The public health system underwent an unprecedented and largely unmanageable strain, at a loss of thousands of lives. In all this, politics struggled to cope with what was going to be publicly indicated as a “war”, passing drastic measures that were bound to limit the freedom of people. The citizenry, unexpectedly, accepted and respected the hard measures for long but not for ever. In all this, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte seized the opportunity to build a highly personalized leadership, using skilled communication strategies, appropriating powers that in the country’s parliamentary system have to pass first the scrutiny and approval of the chambers, and bypassing party lines to manage the emergency in first person. This offered the opportunity to a leader with no partisan allegiance to gain a stature of key figure for future political adventures.