We're now in the throes of one of the most dangerous moments of Europe's two-year-old debt crisis. Thus far, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's pledge to resign has failed to convince markets that Italy can pass unpopular austerity measures and repay its whopping $2.6 trillion in government debt. And while this lack of confidence has sent Italy's borrowing rate soaring above a threshold -- 7 percent -- that compelled Greece, Ireland, and Portugal to seek international help, many analysts argue that the world's eighth-largest economy is simply too big for Europe to bail out in the event of a default.
In fact, Italy's problems run much deeper than a collapsed government and high borrowing costs, and range from heaping piles of trash in Naples to unsustainable birth rates. What follows is a tour of eight key issues that are plaguing the country behind the scenes.
Above, university students demonstrate in Palermo in Nov. 2010 aganst proposed budget cuts to the education system. The sign in the middle reads, "If you block your future, we'll paralyze the city."
Marcello Paternostro/AFP/Getty Images