Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who said he wanted a "high-profile" administration to take office to tackle the health emergency, summons former European Central Bank President Mario Draghi for talks.
Talks to revive Italy's ruling coalition have failed, the small party that triggered the government crisis has announced, deepening the country's political turmoil in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Former premier Matteo Renzi pulled his Italia Viva party out of the coalition last month, accusing Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of mishandling both the health crisis and the subsequent economic meltdown.
President Sergio Mattarella, the supreme arbiter in Italian politics, on Tuesday asked the head of the lower house of parliament, Roberto Fico, to mediate between the various parties.
However, Renzi said the negotiations had failed to patch up the differences on an array of issues, including health spending, education, justice and infrastructure.
"We take into account the 'nos' of our colleagues in the ex-coalition," Renzi said.
"We thank Fico and rely [now] on the wisdom of the head of state."
Fico was due to see Mattarella later on Tuesday to inform him of the breakdown.
Following the unsuccessful talks, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday he wanted to appoint a new government that he hoped would win broad support in parliament after talks aimed at reviving the previous coalition collapsed.
Mattarella, the supreme arbiter of Italian politics, said he did not want to call early elections, arguing that the country needed a strong administration to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and to draw up recovery plans for the economy.
As a result, he said he wanted a "high-profile" administration to take office that could rely on cross-party backing to tackle the health emergency.
Such a government would almost certainly be led by a technocrat.
He has summoned former European Central Bank President Mario Draghi for talks on Wednesday, an official announced just minutes after the head of state said he wanted to put together a new, "high profile" government.
The back-to-back announcements meant Draghi would almost certainly be asked to lead a government of national unity to help Italy face the coronavirus emergency and manage the economic crisis.
Early election scenario
Italy, the first European country to be hit by the virus, has seen more than 89,000 deaths since its outbreak emerged last February, the second highest toll in Europe and the sixth highest in the world.
Italia Viva party has already indicated that it would like former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to become prime minister.
There is no guarantee that enough parties from either the current coalition or the opposition rightist bloc would sign up to such a scenario, which would effectively see them lose control of policy-making.
Without broad backing for an institutional administration, Mattarella would have no option but to install a caretaker government and hold national elections by June, some two years ahead of schedule.