Until the early 1990s, the Italian political system was regarded as anomalous among advanced democracies because of its failure to achieve alternation in government. Since then, that problem has been overcome, but Italy has been popularly viewed as continuing to be different to other democracies because it is ‘in transition’ between regimes. However, this position itself is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain because of the length of time of this so-called transition. Rather than focus on what is rather an abstract debate, it may be more fruitful to analyse what, in substance, is distinctive about Italian politics in this period: the manner in which a debate over fundamental institutional (including electoral) reform has become entangled in day-to-day politics. This can best be exemplified through an analysis of two key electoral consultations held in 2006: the national elections and the referendum on radically revising the Italian Constitution.