Italy for centuries was and, to a large degree, still is a homogenous culture. Add to that the fact that issues of race here are discussed so frankly and openly -- there's apparently no taboo to saying, in a loud voice, "That black guy over there. . . ." Moreover, the reality is that most people of African descent in Italy are working as street vendors, not bankers. All this may make travelers with darker skin feel -- correctly at times -- as if they're being singled out.
Pockets of outright racism do exist in Italy, especially in the Veneto and the Northeast in general. There African and South Asian workers fill the need for low-paid labor and, according to outfits like the Northern League, are generally responsible for any crime that might occur in the streets. Skinhead violence is extremely rare, but you might expect the occasional slur from a soccer hooligan and maybe some sideways glances from a few provincial old men.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.