The father of three sons, he lives in Rome's working-class Testaccio neighborhood. When he was tapped by Napolitano on Wednesday, he drove his own car to the Quirinal Palace, in what was seen as a photo opportunity gesture to Italian taxpayers who widely despise the huge fleet of luxury cars that shuttles around ministers and lawmakers.

In 1998, when he was 32, Letta became the youngest minister in Italy's history when he served as minister for European policy for then-Premier Massimo D'Alema, an ex-Communist leader. Letta seemed a natural for that post. He spent his childhood in Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament, and studied international law before jumping into politics.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform