Arrivederci, Berlusconi and buongiorno, Monti!

After Silvio Berlusconi resigned from his post as Italy’s prime minister Saturday afternoon — ending a tumultuous 17-year chapter in Italian politics — Mario Monti GRD ’68, a former member of the European Commission and president of Milan’s Bocconi University, accepted a mandate on Sunday to become the nation’s new prime minister.

Italy must repay or refinance nearly 200 billion euros (about $276 billion) in bonds by April 2012. Last week, the political situation drove the yields on Italy’s bonds to 7.4 percent, a rate at which other countries in the euro zone have sought bailouts. With such high rates of interest, Italy will have a hard time handling its debt load, the New York Times reported.

Monti’s appointment follows a call by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in support of Monti to form a broad coalition to pass urgent economic legislation. He has declined to say how long he hopes to govern, but is expected to present his cabinet and program to the Italian parliament in a few days.

“We owe it to our children to give them a dignified and hopeful future,” Monti said at a news conference Sunday.

Monti, aged 68, studied with Nobel Prize winner James Tobin at Yale as an economist and won the nickname “Super Mario” as Europe’s competition commissioner in 2001 for preventing a proposed merger between technology giants GE and Honeywell. He served as a member of the European Commission between 1994 and 2004, and is the current president of Bruegel, a European think tank he established in 2005.

Monti was born in Lombardy, the same part of Italy that Berlusconi comes from.