They may still be searching for a first victory in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations but the signs are undoubtedly there that Italy are on an upward curve.
Head coach Conor O’Shea is masterminding an overhaul of Italian rugby and in his second Championship in charge of the national team, a number of young stars have been emerging.
Click here for the complete 2018 NatWest 6 Nations fixture list
A home defeat to England opened up proceedings before losses on the road to Ireland and France and as they gear up for a trip to Cardiff to face Wales this Sunday, we look at how the Azzurri reached this point. ROUND ONE: POSITIVES APLENTY AGAINST THE CHAMPIONS
An opening-round clash against two-time defending champions England was a tall order to start the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations for Italy.
They ultimately succumbed to a 46-15 defeat in Rome but showed some nice attacking touches throughout – Tommaso Allan pulling the strings from No.10, Tommaso Benvenuti crossing the whitewash in the first half and Mattia Bellini doing likewise in the second.
The first try was a particular highlight as Bellini got free down the left to turn the English defence before the ball was spread right and a gorgeous Allan pass hit Benvenuti in full stride.
The Azzurri were only 27-15 behind as the game entered the final quarter, before George Ford, Sam Simmonds and Jack Nowell added gloss to the scoreline from an English perspective, but the positives were clear for the hosts. ROUND TWO: THREE-TRY SHOWING IN DUBLIN
If hosting England in the opener was a tough assignment, things weren’t about to get any easier for Italy as they travelled to Dublin to take on in-form Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
Joe Schmidt’s troops were irrepressible as they ran in eight tries – including doubles for Robbie Henshaw and Jacob Stockdale – to triumph 56-19.
The Azzurri did cross three times themselves in the second half however as Allan, Edoardo Gori and Matteo Minozzi dotted down.
Tommaso Castello’s initial break set up Allan before Minozzi and the ageless Sergio Parisse combined to release Gori, Minozzi dived over in the corner and they almost grabbed a bonus point at the death – only for Keith Earls’ superb covering tackle to deny Bellini.
ROUND THREE: HISTORY IN MARSEILLE
In the first home France Championship match to be held outside Paris, Italy travelled to Marseille – and the iconic Orange Stade Vélodrome – for a Friday night showdown with Les Bleus.
A tense first half saw the Azzurri awarded an early penalty try, and they only trailed 11-7 at the break, but the hosts pulled away in the second period to triumph 34-17.
Minozzi once again demonstrated his nose for the try-line by getting on the scoresheet late on, while flanker Sebastian Negri was totemic throughout.
Negri appears to have learned plenty from playing alongside the great Parisse as he made 63 metres on 16 carries, beat eight defenders, successfully offloaded twice and added 14 tackles, missing just one, for good measure.
With Wales awaiting in Round Four, can Italy turn promising performances into results and secure a first Championship victory since 2015?