In recent years political parties have received renewed attention from po-litical scientists and political sociologists. A series of recently published books on this topic offer an updated and thorough account of research findings and interpretations pertaining to political parties' contemporary profile in advanced industrial democracies. This essay attempts to high-light the trends experienced by political parties, with a special focus on the Italian party system. The most striking result which emerges from the books under consideration concerns the strengthening of the party "in public office" and "in central office" in spite of (or precisely due to) the continuous decline of the party "on the ground". This imbalance pro-duces problems of internal democracy and accountability which seriously damage the legitimacy of parties themselves in the contemporary polity. As many authors underline, parties are under attack by public opinion: they are charged with being inefficient, inaccurate, corrupt, careless and distant from people's demands, and these negative evaluations have pro-duced alienation and/or support for anti-system parties.