The 201,600 people who became Italian accounted for a fifth of nearly a million new EU citizens that year, according to the latest figures from European statistics office Eurostat.
Italy approved some 23,600 more citizenship requests compared to 2015, an increase of 13 percent. The new passports went notably to people originally from Albania (18.3 percent of the total), Morocco (17.5 percent) and Romania (6.4 percent).
Relative to the size of its population, however, Italy was fourth in the EU, with 4.1 citizenships granted per 1,000 people – fewer than in Sweden, Luxembourg or Cyprus.
Meanwhile the proportion of foreigners living in Italy who acquired citizenship was 4 percent – compared to 9.7 percent in Croatia and 7.9 percent in Sweden – which means that the vast majority of Italy's foreign residents have either not sought or not received Italian nationality.
While other EU nationals can live in Italy permanently with only minimal paperwork, non-Europeans also have the option to stay without acquiring citizenship, thanks to Italy's permanent residency permit or carta di soggiorno.
Those who want full nationality must either have Italian parents or grandparents, marry an Italian or prove as many as ten years' legal residency in Italy.
Children born to foreign parents in Italy have to wait until they're at least 18 to apply, though a debate is ongoing over whether to speed up that process. While the previous centre-left government proposed reforming Italy's citizenship laws, the move was stalled by its opponents, including the members of the right-wing coalition that came out top in an inconclusive general election last month.
In total, the 28 EU countries granted citizenship to 994,800 people in 2016, 18 percent more than the year before. After Italy, the countries that approved the most requests were Spain and the UK, each with around 150,000, followed by France (119,200) and Germany (112,800).
Spain and the UK accounted for the biggest increases in new citizenships, each approving more than 30,000 extra requests compared to 2015.