This work takes into account a theoretical discussion about the relationship between the private and public sectors with specific reference to Italy. It argues that three contexts are important, namely the ‘task’, ‘normative’ and ‘organisational’ environments. The second part of the paper reports some findings from research in progress. This describes the attitudes of Italian staff working in the public sector of tourism to the issue of the relationship between the public and private sector. South Italian managers rank motivational factors highly, while north Italian managers seem more concerned about issues of co-ordination and the quality of service provision.