Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti called a cabinet meeting on Sunday to examine a plan of budget cuts and pension reforms aimed at defeating the debt crisis threatening to tear apart the eurozone.
The reforms were due to be unveiled on Monday but the cabinet meeting was brought forward unexpectedly to 1500 GMT on Sunday as Monti rushed to reassure Europe that Italy would act fast to avoid sliding headlong into bankruptcy.
The technocrat spent the weekend in talks with trade union leaders and the heads of Italy's main political parties in an attempt to win support for the many "sacrifices" involved in the crisis plan.
The unions have fiercely criticised a series of proposed reforms to pensions, but Monti and party leaders have warned that Italy is running out of time.
"We're faced with an alternative between the current situation, with the required sacrifices, or insolvent state, and a euro destroyed perhaps by Italy's infamy," Monti said.
The reforms have not been officially announced yet but are believed to include a tax on large capitals as well as pension reforms, and Monti has stressed his desire to distribute the pain fairly among Italians.
"The choice is between a harsh plan today and the risk of bankruptcy tomorrow," Angelino Alfano, the head of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, told SKY TG 24 television.
Italy is under intense pressure to move quickly as it faces a tough timetable to refinance 400 billion euros in debt next year and any insolvency problem could trigger a wider collapse in the 17-nation eurozone.
Emma Marcegaglia, one of Italy's top business leaders, told Italians that the "situation is very serious indeed" and the reforms were "indispensable... fundamental for Italy and to save the euro."
Italy's public debt is equivalent to around 120 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Economic growth has been anaemically low for years and the economy has also been weighed down for decades by reams of bureaucracy.
Economic Development Minister Corrado Passera, a former senior bank chief, warned last week that Italy risked slipping back into recession and the plan is also expected to emphasise measures to boost economic growth.
The measures will give Monti an extra boost ahead of a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels opening on Thursday in which the outline of a deeper economic integration in the eurozone is expected to be sketched out.