"To lose like this is beautiful," ran the headline on page one of La Gazzetta dello Sport over a photograph of captain Marco Bortolami celebrating one of Italy's two late tries in Saturday's 51-24 defeat by Ireland.
Italy's Six Nations campaign was a huge success, on and off the field.
The 37-17 win over Scotland at Murrayfield, their first away victory in the competition, and the 23-20 triumph over Wales ensured the team picked up two wins for the first time since joining the Six Nations in 2000.
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The Azzurri's successes on the field have translated into a new-found enthusiasm among the public.
This was the year in which Italians embraced the game, partly for its own merits and partly as a substitute for soccer, whose stock has touched a new low following the death of a policeman in rioting at a Serie A match last month.
The national team have found themselves on the front of the newspapers, used in advertising campaigns, held up as paragons of fair play and exalted as favourite sporting heroes.
Italy coach Pierre Berbizier said on Saturday it was not the result but how you played the game that counted.
"Winning or losing is not important. What is important is that the team plays as close as possible to its best. That way the result always reflects the work that has been put in," he said before the Ireland game.
WORLD CUP
"Win or lose, we must continue to show progress, to continue our growth as we look towards the World Cup."
The signs are promising as Italy prepare to fight their way out of a World Cup group that includes New Zealand, Scotland and Romania later this year.
Berbizier's decision to recall Alessandro Troncon to the squad was an unqualified success.
The 33-year-old scrumhalf, who had not played internationally for nearly two years, was the heart of Italy's campaign, harrying opponents, urging on team mates and winning the man of the match awards in the defeat by England and the win at Murrayfield.
Italy's backline play also continued the improvement it showed last season, Berbizier's first in charge.
But the biggest change in the team was their stamina. Renowned for late collapses, Italy finally proved they could fight for 80 minutes, beating Wales thanks to a late try by Mauro Bergamasco.
Their weaknesses remain the shallow pool of top-class players available that leaves them exposed when injuries strike, and the lack of a visionary flyhalf.
Neither Andrea Scanavacca nor Ramiro Pez has made the number 10 jersey his own while Troncon's reappearance on the international scene spoke volumes about Italy's failure to find another top-class scrumhalf.
On Saturday, however, all the Italy squad wanted to do was bask in their new popularity.
"We've disputed an excellent Six Nations. We can look forward to the World Cup with confidence," said Bortolami before heading off to Rome's Piazza del Popolo where 10,000 fans awaited the team's arrival on a specially-built stage.
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