Abstract: We study the connection between economic performance and the quality of government institutions for the sample of 103 Italian NUTS3 regions, including new measures of institutional performance calculated using data on the provision of different areas of public services. In order to address likely endogeneity problems, we use the histories of the different foreign dominations that ruled Italian regions between the 16th and 17th century and over seven hundred years before the creation of the unified Italian State. Our results suggest that past historical institutions play a significant role on the current public administration quality and show that the latter makes a difference to the economic performance of regions. Overall, our analysis confirms that the quality of institutions matters for development, and that history can be used to find suitable instruments.