President Sergio Mattarella had turned to Draghi, who is credited with having saved the euro during Europe’s debt crisis, after last-ditch negotiations among the country’s major political parties failed to produce a viable governing coalition.

Draghi said Italy is facing a “difficult moment” after being tasked by Mattarella with forming a new government.

“I am confident that... unity will emerge and with it the ability to give a responsible and positive answer to the appeal of the President of the Republic,” Draghi told reporters at the Quirinal Palace, following a meeting with Mattarella at noon on Wednesday.

Draghi will now try to create a coalition to replace that led by outgoing prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who was forced to resign following weeks of political turmoil.

Draghi is expected to try to put together a “government of national unity” to navigate the still-raging pandemic.

Alongside the ever-mounting death toll, the country’s economy shrank 8.9 per cent in 2020 – the biggest slump since the end of World War II.

Mattarella has stressed the urgency of creating a stable government and avoiding elections during the pandemic, which hit Italy first among European nations and has been devastating.

During his tenure at the European Central Bank, Draghi became known as “Super Mario” for using new and sometimes unorthodox policy tools to solve the vexing debt crisis and other problems.

Draghi has long been cited by political watchers as the man to see Italy through the coming months.

But everything still depends on whether the economist can secure a majority of support among lawmakers, before submitting to a vote of confidence in parliament.

So far, the Democratic Party (PD) appears on board, as does former premier Matteo Renzi, who sparked the political crisis last month, when he pulled his Italia Viva party from Conte’s coalition.

But the Five Star Movement (M5S), the biggest party in parliament once defined by its euroscepticism and “anti-elite” stance, is split.

One of the M5S leaders, Vito Crimi, warned: “This type of executive has already been adopted in the past, with extremely negative consequences for Italian citizens.”