Cutting loose with three tries in the final quarter in a fractious game Italy completed their third successive win over Ireland.
The Irish coach, Brian Ashton, was impressed by Italy's performance and said: "We have to accept that the Italians are going to be a major force in international rugby.
"They certainly deserve to take their place in an extended Five Nations' Championship."
The Irish manager, Pat Whelan, appeared to rule out major changes for the Championship. "Our first championship match is not until early February and we have plenty of time to consider our options," he said.
The two outside-halves, Diego Dominguez and David Humphreys, each landed four penalties to tie the score at 12-12 before Dominguez put Italy ahead again with a fifth penalty with 58 minutes gone.
After Humphreys was helped off to have five stitches in a facial wound, Italy upped the tempo. Three times the Irish lost possession and three times Italy struck with Dominguez, Corrado Pilat and Cristian Stoica crossing the line.
Ireland's responded with a 71st-minute penalty by substitute Eric Elwood who then cleverly set up a try for Darragh O'Mahony in the 79th minute and also landed the conversion.
But Dominguez had the final say with an injury-time penalty.
Italy: Tries Dominguez, Pilat, Stoica; Conversions Dominguez 2; Penalties Dominguez 6. Ireland: Try O'Mahony; Conversion Elwood; Penalties Humphreys 4, Elwood.
ITALY: C Pilat (Benetton); P Vaccari (Fly Flot), C Stoica (Narbonne), M Dallan (Benetton), Marcello Cuttitta (Milan); D Dominguez (Stade Francais), A Troncon (Benetton); Massimo Cuttitta (Harlequins), C Orlandi (Milan), A Castellani (L' Aquila); G Croci (Milan), C Checchinato (Benetton), M Giovanelli (Narbonne), capt), A Sgorlon (Benetton), J Gardner (Benetton). Replacements: O Arancio (Toulon) for Giovanelli, 21-24 and for Gardner, 27-30; W Scanavacca (Femi Rovigo) for Croci, 74.
IRELAND: K Nowlan (St Mary's College); D Hickie (St Mary's College), K Maggs (Bristol), M McCall (London Irish), D O'Mahony (Moseley); D Humphreys (London Irish), N Hogan (London Irish); R Corrigan (Greystones), K Wood (Harlequins, capt), P Clohessy (Young Munster); P Johns (Saracens), M O'Kelly (London Irish), D Erskine (Sale), D O'Grady (Sale), E Miller (Leicester). Replacements: E Elwood (Galwegians) for Humphreys, 63; A Clarke (Northampton) for Wood, 72; V Costello (St Mary's College) for Erskine 77.
Referee: D Mene (France).Reuse content