Italian Business Structures
As has already been said, Italy boasts a large percentage of small and medium-sized family-owned organisations but even many of the larger companies are still controlled in large part by single families (Fiat, Benetton etc.) Indeed, the traditional lack of available venture capital in Italy has meant that many organisations have relied solely on family money and retained profits for investment inputs. Given this ongoing family financial involvement, it is hardly surprising that the family would want to keep a large measure of control.
In keeping with this family suffused ethos, management structures have developed to be strongly hierarchical with most decisions, if not actually made at the top, certainly being pushed upwards by middle management for ratification. Much time can be wasted trying to get agreement with peer level Italians only to discover at a later stage that the decision will be made elsewhere by people who have never been explicitly mentioned.
Therefore, possibly more than in any of the European countries, time is very profitably spent in the early stages of a relationship with an Italian company finding out what the real, rather than the paper decision making process might be.