La dolce vita
Italian construction has shed its mafia image in recent years. New procurement laws have changed the perception of construction in the country by requiring the appointment of independent consultants to oversee public projects. David Matthison, technical director of Milan-based Turner & Townsend Project Management Italia, says: "Foreign firms are a lot more interested in investing in the region now there is no longer as much foul play. Construction in Italy used to be plagued with corruption and dodgy deals but now it is cleaning up its act."

On top of this, the emergence of the euro and Italy's relatively stable government has created a favourable climate for international investors. The Italian construction sector is now beginning to boom and the government is beginning to implement a public spending programme based on the British PFI model.

The first major PFI scheme that looks like it will get under way is the Messina Bridge that will link Sicily with the Italian mainland. And British firms are beginning to take advantage of changes to Italian procurement procedures and a public spending boom to break into the Italian market. For example, Bovis Lend Lease is working with Nightingale Associates on a £9m hospital in Milan.

Another British firm doing well in Italy is Turner & Townsend, which is engaged on a £13m art gallery in Milan, as well as a £1.7bn metro line in Rome. T&T's Matthison has been based in Italy for a year and loves it. "It's a great place to live and it is brilliant to work on historically interesting projects," he says.

Italy on the UK
People in the UK are honest – they lie a lot less than in Italy. The way to win jobs has been dirty in Italy for a number of years; for example, a politician was caught recently giving jobs to a friend of his wife

Pietro Perelli, structural engineer and associate, Arup in London

Michael Davies, managing director of Mace International, agrees. He's recently been to visit Italy as his firm is in talks with some international clients who are looking to expand into the region. "We're all very excited by the prospect of working in Italy. It's an amazing place, and very diverse –

it's like lots of countries rolled into one," he says.

Mace is looking to expand into Italy to continue the success it has had in Spain and Portugal. Davies adds: "We're not going to set up in Italy and then speculate on work we could win, we're looking forward to being led there by our clients, who are very interested in the region because it's a new market with lots of potential."