Italy's President Sergio Mattarella has asked the Senate president, a supporter of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, to explore possible alliances to create a governing majority in Parliament more than a month after Italy's inconclusive elections.
As leader of the Senate, Maria Elisabetta Casellati holds the second-highest position in Italy's governing institutions.
That makes her the logical choice after two rounds of presidential-led consultations failed to break an impasse.
The two leading political blocks have failed to find agreement or even meet one on one.
The leader of the populist Five-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, has refused to be part of any government that includes Mr Berlusconi.
Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia party is a significant power in the centre-right bloc, which together controls 37% of the vote.
Ms Casellati said on Wednesday she would quickly schedule consultations.