Italy is likely to return to the polls very soon after last week's inconclusive vote, the mayor of Florence, seen as a likely new leader of the centre-left in the next election, said today.

The centre-left won a majority in the lower house of parliament but failed to gain the Senate majority it would need to govern.

Italy now faces weeks of uncertainty and the possibility of elections within a few months.

"I'll limit myself to saying that this legislature has all the signs of beating the record for duration in a negative sense," Matteo Renzi told the daily Il Messaggero newspaper.

Mr Renzi, 38, has been widely seen as a likely replacement for veteran Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani after the centre-left failed to secure victory despite a commanding opinion poll lead in the weeks before the vote.

Mr Renzi, who lost to Mr Bersani in last year's leadership primary, has repeatedly declared his loyalty.