Prime Minister Mario Monti has handed in his resignation to Italy's president, bringing to a close his 13-month technical government and preparing the country for national elections.
President Giorgio Napolitano accepted the resignation but asked Mr Monti to stay on as head of a caretaker government until the vote, expected in February. Mr Monti kept his pledge to step down as soon as Parliament gives final passage to the budget law.
In what was his last official public act as premier, Mr Monti earlier told foreign diplomats in Rome that his year-old technical government had rendered the country "more trustworthy". He cited structural reforms, such as measures to improve competition and liberalise services, as well as the recently approved anti-corruption law.
Mr Monti called his tenure "difficult but fascinating".
"The work we did... has made the country more trustworthy, besides more competitive and attractive to foreign investors," he told diplomats, who gave him a standing ovation. "I hope that it can continue this way also in the next legislative session."
His address to diplomats coincided with the lower house of Parliament's final approval of the budget law, which he had promised to see through before stepping down.
Mr Monti took over as head of a technical government in November 2011 as Italy's borrowing costs soared in a clear market vote of no-confidence in Silvio Berlusconi's ability to reform Italy's economy.
Mr Monti announced that he would resign after Mr Berlusconi's parliamentary party withdrew its support for his government, accelerating national elections now expected in February.
Earlier, Mr Monti quipped that the impending end of his technical government "was not the fault of the Mayan prophecy", referring to a doomsday prediction by some New Agers. He will give his year-end news conference on Sunday, when he is expected to announce whether he will participate in the election campaign.
Mr Berlusconi has been toying with a return to electoral politics - after inviting Mr Monti to run under a conservative banner. The leader of the centre-left, Pier Luigi Bersani, is among those critical of a Monti candidacy.