The last special issue of this journal dedicated to Italian politics was published ten years ago (Bull and Rhodes 1997a). At that point, the dramatic changes which had brought about the effective removal of a political class and the transformation of the party system were only five or so years in the making. The first half of the 1990s had been subject to a flood of literature (both academic and journalistic) that principally aimed at explaining why a transformation, if not ‘revolution’, in Italian politics had occurred, and where the Italian polity was now headed. The focus of this literature was therefore on ‘crisis’ (the early 1990s) and ‘transition’ (what followed and where and how it was likely to finish).