Bersani, by contrast, is 61 and a veteran of previous center-left governments, where he has served as transport and industry minister. In his victory speech, Bersani made clear his new job running for premier would begin Monday with a trip to Libya, Italy's former colony, to meet with the government.
"I want Italy to retake its place in political, moral, cultural and economic terms in the Mediterranean," Bersani said to cheers.
But even in defeat, Renzi won a victory of sorts for having changed the Italian left â¿¿ perhaps forever, analysts said. Renzi's perceived liberal conservative leanings within the center-left, while alienating the movement's hard-core communists, attracted Italians young and old who might otherwise never have voted, much less for a center-left candidate. He liked to say that he offered a different vision for the party, a different model.
"Even if he loses, as I think he will, he had an important renovation function within the party," Rome resident Pietro Marucci said Sunday as he voted for Renzi.
Renzi's style â¿¿ moving around Italy in a motor home to meet crowds, addressing supporters in just a shirt and tie, no jacket â¿¿ drew inevitable comparisons to President Barack Obama. But some analysts said he was simply not yet ready for the job of running Italy, and that his relaxed, fresh approach to politics isn't what Italy needs as it navigates through a grinding recession and near-record high unemployment and tries to tackle its enormous public debt of â¿¬2 trillion ($2.5 trillion).
"Italy certainly badly needs new faces, fresh faces," noted columnist Massimo Franco said. "But I think that between Renzi and Bersani, the big problem is also experience."
It remains to be seen what, if any, role Renzi will play in the campaign for general elections and how Bersani will try to capitalize on the support Renzi generated. In his speech, Bersani made clear he understood Renzi's base, saying that starting Monday he would give "new space" to the younger generations in the party.