A coalition between the Democratic Party, a pro-EU party led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, 43, and MoreEurope, a liberal, pro-immigration group helmed by Emma Bonino, 69, could only muster about 23% of the votes between them.
Renzi says "if this is who we are, govern without us". By many accounts, he did a fair job in tough circumstances, but his administration, like many before it, succumbed to a dissatisfied electorate.
With 17% of the vote, the party has done particularly well in relatively wealthy areas of northern Italy where concerns about security and immigration are high and euroscepticism is rife.
Results show that the centre-right coalition won about 37 per cent of the vote while the populist anti-EU 5-Star Movement collected around 31 per cent.
The head of the anti-migrant, euroskeptic League, which emerged from Italy's elections as the largest party in the centre right, said Monday the grouping would be able to govern and markets have no reason to fear.
Election posters in Rome. Having entered the Italian political scene less than ten years ago as an anti-establishment force, this group has struck a chord with an electorate weighted down by the economic crisis and fed up with the corruption of mainstream parties. According to one recent poll, only about a third of Italians believe that they will be better off than their parents.
The 5-Star Movement considers itself an Internet-based democracy, not a party and views established parties as a parasitic caste. Earlier this year, he made a decision to stand back from the party.
So M5S and League can form a coalition, which will place them at 50%.
The longer-term worry for investors is that the Italian election may stoke renewed concern about populist forces in the eurozone, almost a year after many of those were vanquished by the outcome of elections in the Netherlands and France. "Form a government without us".
The shock result has been compared to Trump's sensational win in the 2016 United States election, which was fuelled by an anti-immigration "America First" message, and the UK's historic Brexit vote. It is estimated that roughly three quarters of a million refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy in the past seven years.
Before the vote Mr Di Maio said he would offer other parties "a government contract" in which they provide support for a set agenda and a cabinet that he has already named.
But the League party is in no mood to take the small chair at the table. Sadly, but not entirely unpredictably, the strategy worked. "The center right is the coalition that won", he said.
With the vote-count well advanced and full results due later on Monday, it looked nearly certain that none of the three main factions would be able to govern alone and there was little prospect of a return to mainstream government, creating a dilemma for the EU.
Asked about the possibility of joining forces with the Five Star Movement to govern, Salvini replied: "No, no, no".
So Italy seems likely to get another conservative government.
They also have in common is a sympathetic approach to Vladimir Putin's Russian Federation.
With votes counted from more than 75% of polling stations, it looked nearly certain that none of Italy's three main factions would be able to rule alone and there was little prospect of a return to mainstream government, creating a headache for the European Union.