Financial markets can provide a strong support to Italian growth. Banks and stock market are important and complementary channels trough which savings could reach firms in their investment plans. The paper describes the main institutional and law changes that occurred during the 90s in the Italian financial system, aimed to improve the capabilities. It discusses, from an historical perspective, households behaviour with respect to investments in listed shares. It highlights the different ways in which a firm can finance its investment decisions. The relation with a bank is the traditional channel, in particular for small and mid sized firms. But the use of stock market and the venture capitalism have an important and increasing role. It concludes by stressing the significance of a more widespread equity culture, for both households and firms. This goal should characterise the financial institutions' behaviour for the coming years.