Alitalia is in talks with Etihad over a deal that could see the Abu Dhabi-based airline take a stake in the Italian flag-carrier.
Recently-appointed Alitalia chief executive Gabriele del Torchio is reportedly in talks with managers at the Middle Eastern carrier.
According to reports in the Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper reports a deal could be on the table in the coming months.
Etihad has recently taken stakes in a number of airlines, including JAT Airways of Serbia.
Alitalia - which is presently 25 per cent owned by Air France-KLM - was rescued from bankruptcy in 2008 when it was bought by a consortium of bank Intesa Sanpaolo, road operator Atlantia and conglomerate IMMSI.
Alitalia and Etihad were mentioned in the context of a possible tie-up earlier this year, but Etihad said at the time there were no talks between the two beyond those on code‑sharing.