More than 150,000 people thronged the streets of Rome on Saturday as marches in cities across Italy marked "No Monti Day."
The day of protest was called by trade unions and left-wing political parties to call for an end to the unelected government of former Goldman Sachs adviser and European commissioner Mario Monti.
Most marches went off peacefully, though in the northern town of Riva del Garda police broke up the protest with baton charges and tear gas.
In Rome 20,000 doctors and nurses marched along a separate route in uniform to highlight cuts to the national health service, while the main demonstration began at the Piazza della Repubblica and wound its way to the Piazza San Giovanni for a mass rally.
Georgio Cremaschi of trade union group the 28 April Network told Italian media: "The Italian people are waking up at last, along with our Greek, Spanish and French fellow Europeans."
Mr Monti was appointed to the premiership with EU backing last November to force through austerity measures too unpopular to attract votes and since then has imposed sweeping cuts to public spending and attempted to dismantle employment law.
Italy's economy has continued to shrink and its public debt is now 126 per cent of GDP.
But the weekend saw the first cracks in the coalition propping up the "technocrat" government as disgraced ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi launched an unexpected broadside at Mr Monti on Saturday.
Billionaire media tycoon Mr Berlusconi was convicted on Friday of tax evasion and sentenced to four years in prison. He is appealing the sentence.
But he appeared to take the court ruling as a cue to make a political comeback, delivering a speech in which he said the government's economic policies had created a "recessive spiral."
His People of Freedom party would meet soon to decide whether to withdraw support from Mr Monti's government, which would force early elections, although he insisted he would not be standing for the premiership.
Mr Monti has also ruled out standing for elected office, although he has offered to remain prime minister whoever wins the next election.
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