Italy's president has accepted the resignation of Premier Enrico Letta after he was sacked by his own Democratic party in a back-room mutiny.
President Giorgio Napolitano said he would start consulting political leaders later on Friday with an aim of finding a new government that can win parliamentary approval and enact necessary economic and political reforms.
The consultations are expected to last through Saturday. At their conclusion, Mr Napolitano is widely expected to ask the brash, young mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, to try to form a government.
The 39-year-old Mr Renzi engineered the stunning power play to knock Mr Letta out of the premier's office and move in, accusing him of failing to lift Italy out of its economic and political doldrums.
Earlier Mr Letta has hosted his final cabinet meeting while Mr Renzi spent the day doing what he does best, charming ordinary Italians by celebrating Valentine's Day at Florence's city hall with hundreds of married couples.
Mr Renzi rallied his party's executives on Thursday to back him in an internal vote of no-confidence against Mr Letta.
The ousting came as national statistics bureau Istat reported today that fourth-quarter GDP edged up 0.1%, the first positive growth since mid-2011.
Mr Renzi's mutiny was surprising even by Italian political standards, since he had long insisted that he would only gun for the premiership via an election and the popular mandate that would give him. But analysts said he clearly saw an opportunity and seized it, even though the risks of it failing are high.
It remains to be seen how Italy's shifting political alliances will line up for the required vote of confidence in Parliament once Mr Renzi gets the nod from Mr Napolitano, forms a government and outlines his agenda to kickstart the economy, create jobs and enact the electoral reforms needed to make Italy more governable.
Mr Renzi spent his day basking in victory and opening up Florence's Palazzo Vecchio city hall to hundreds of married couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. He is seen as a popular, down-to-earth mayor who has resonated with Italians fed up with Italy's self-absorbed political class.