Academics, at least in Economics, have been largely dysfunctional in Italy for a long time. With faculty positions centrally administrated by the Ministry of Education, competitions rigged against people coming from abroad, and newcomers have first to pay their time in the purgatory (the South or the islands), there have been very few incentives for quality people to stay or return to the country. Hence a very large diaspora of Italian economists throughout the world who even have organized themselves into a separate society to try to shake things up. Things have moved, a little bit, as universities have now more autonomy in hiring, and one can wonder whether this has done any good.
Adriano Birolo and Annalisa Rosselli provide an assessment of the quality of new hires into entry-level positions around 1985, 1995 and 2005. While the number of hires seems to have substantially increased, their quality does not seem to have. While they may publish more, they do so with substantially more co-authors. where there seems to be some change is in the topics of research. Italy has always had a very strong tradition in the history of economic thought, indeed a sixth of all publications were devoted to this in the 1980s, and this emphasis seems to dwindle to the advantage of Microeconomics, which was virtually absent. So at least in terms of research topics, Italy is becoming less of an oddball.