Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, a fan of US President Barack Obama who was set to be elected leader of Italy's centre-left Democratic Party on Sunday, is just 38 and already seen as a possible future prime minister.
The web-savvy Renzi has been at the centre of Italian media attention for months -- sometimes even overshadowing the scandal-prone Silvio Berlusconi -- although he is little known internationally.
Renzi has pushed for more cuts in spending on Italy's unwieldy bureaucracy -- amid widespread anger over high salaries for public officials even during a painful recession -- as well as a greater focus on education.
The youthful Renzi has also long campaigned against the middle-aged leadership of his own party and pushed for a more centrist programme, although leftist critics accuse him of being thin on concrete proposals.
His supporters say that if Renzi had won a previous failed bid against Pierluigi Bersani for the party leadership in 2012, the Democratic Party would have won handsomely in a general election earlier this year.
Bersani won the election but only by a razor-thin margin, forcing the Democratic Party into an unstable coalition with its historic centre-right rivals.
Renzi has cultivated a dynamic image -- he takes part in marathons, rides a bicycle and sometimes appears in a black leather jacket -- prompting comics to compare him to "The Fonz" from US sitcom "Happy Days".
With his Tuscan accent and his mamma's boy good looks, he is considered a politician with "transversal" appeal who can win over part of the centre-right electorate and has even impressed former prime minister Berlusconi.
Born on January 11, 1975, in Florence, Renzi graduated in law and is a former Catholic Boy Scout. His interest in politics began at 19 as he followed in the footsteps of his father -- a local Christian-Democrat politician.
In 1994, he created a committee to support Romano Prodi in his effort to win the nomination to lead Italian centre-left forces against Berlusconi.
He then worked for a few years at a marketing company that belongs to his family and makes most of its money thanks to a local paper, La Nazione.
His leap into politics proper came in 2001 when he became a local coordinator of the Christian centre-left party La Margherita. In 2003, he became the party's provincial leader and earned a reputation as a moderate.
He was then selected by the centre-left to run in elections to lead the province of Florence in June 2004 and won with 58.8 percent of the vote.
He wrote a book about his experiences as provincial leader titled "Between De Gasperi and U2" -- a reference to the historic leader of Italy's Christian-Democratic movement and the famous rock band.
Renzi became an advocate of political renewal along the lines of "New Labour" in Britain and earned popularity by lowering local taxes, establishing an efficient recycling system and promoting culture and innovation.
It was only his mayoral victory in Florence, however, that attracted much wider national attention.
He won a surprise win in a primary against another more favoured candidate from the Democratic Party thanks to his media skills and his grassroots campaign on the squares and in the markets of the historic city.
He went on to win the mayor's seat in 2009.
Before starting his unsuccessful campaign for the party leadership in 2012, Renzi attended the Democratic National Convention in the United States and spoke there of his deep admiration for Obama.
He is a skilled communicator who relies on able spin doctors like Giorgio Gori, a former director of Berlusconi's main television stations.
Renzi is married to a former fellow Scout, Agnese, a schoolteacher, and they have three children.