The second Berlusconi government came to power at the end of a period of unprecedented change in Italian politics to which the term 'Italian transition' is frequently applied. While the new government's arrival has not brought the transition to an end, the manner of its election powerfully symbolizes the end of much of what was 'unique' about the Italian polity. Such uniqueness derived essentially from the tripolar nature of the country's party system and the 'blocked' character of its democracy. The crisis of the early 1990s gave rise to the onset of a regime transition whose phases can be described analytically by applying Flanagan's (1973) developmental framework and Linz's (1978) breakdown and re-equilibration model. Given the transition's 'stalling', the article considers what kind of and how much change has taken place in the Italian political system and the degree to which the second Berlusconi government might represent a new departure for it. The Introduction concludes by presenting the 'aspects of the Italian transition' discussed in the following five articles.