Italy has scheduled a national election to take place on March 4.
The date was set after the country's parliament was formally dissolved on Thursday afternoon (December 28) by President Sergio Mattarella.
The election is expected to produce a period of instability on the eurozone's third-largest economy.
Speaking at his traditional end of year news conference the prime minister asked political parties not to make unrealistic promises during the election campaign.
Leading opinion polls is the populist 5-Star Movement, followed by the ruling Democratic Party. Most seats are seen as going to a conservative alliance which includes Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia.