Volleyball is the most practised women's sport in Italy and FIPAV (the Italian Volleyball Federation) can count on more than 100,000 registered athletes.
This popularity is paying off at international level.
In 2007 the Italian women's team won two gold medals, at the FIVB World Cup and European Championship, and the bronze at the FIVB World Grand Prix.
The previous year they claimed bronze at the World Grand Prix and in 2005 gathered two silver medals at the World Grand Prix and European Championship.
The gold medal at the World Cup in 2007 guaranteed the Italians a place at the Beijing Games.
It will be their third successive Summer Games after qualifying for the event for the first time in 2000.
Then they finished in ninth place, improving on that in Athens four years later with a fifth-place finish.
With their form of the previous few years, they'll be hoping to secure their first podium finish in Beijing.
It has been a rapid improvement from the Italians, which was triggered by the project behind qualifying for their first Olympics.
In order to reach this goal, the Italian Volleyball Federation worked out a project called "Club Italia" with the aim of creating the right conditions for six "girls in blue" to develop their technique to the highest level.
In relation to this, the FIPAV requested the organization of the 1999 women's European Championships in Rome, where the Italians finished third.
Before that, the best performances at international level were third position at the 1989 European Championships in Germany and fifth place at the 1998 FIVB World Championship in Japan.
The Italian women had also ranked fourth in the 1991 and 1993 editions of the European Championships.
From 2000, the development in Italian Women's Volleyball has been impressive. In 2001 Italy claimed their first continental final medal by winning silver at the European Championships in Varna, Bulgaria.
Three years later, they scooped a silver medal again, this time in the World Grand Prix.
They were beginning to show consistent signs of the high-quality Volleyball that was to come.
Massimo Barbolini began his coaching career in Men's Volleyball. He was assistant coach of Panini Modena when the Head Coach was Julio Velasco.
After this experience he became Head Coach for Agrigento and then Modena.
In the 1993-1994 season, he started working with Women's teams in Matera.
He remained at Matera for three seasons. For the 1996-1997 season he was at Rome for just one year before moving to Perugia in 1997-1998 season and staying until the 2006-2007.
In June 2007 Barbolini started coaching the Italian Women's National Team.
He led the Italians to first place at the 2007 European Championships before guiding them to first place at the 2007 World Cup in Japan and a place in the 2008 Olympic Games Volleyball Tournament in Beijing.
In a trophy-laden spell in Club Volleyball, Barbolini, born in Modena on August 29, 1964, won four Italian Championships, five Italian Cups, two CEV Cups, two Champions Cups and one European Supercup.