France has recalled its ambassador in Rome on Thursday after what it described as baseless and repeated attacks from Italy's political leaders, whom it urged to return to a more friendly stance.
"France has been, for several months, the target of repeated, baseless attacks and outrageous statements," its foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Having disagreements is one thing, but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another," it added, calling Italy's attacks without precedent since World War Two.
the Italian foreign ministry had no immediate comment about the French decision, which a diplomatic source said was unprecedented since 1945.
Relations between Italy and France, generally close allies, have worsened since Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, and fellow Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, angered the French leadership.
Di Maio accused Paris of creating poverty in Africa, while Salvini accused France of doing nothing to bring peace to Libya.
Di Maio, who also leads the populist, anti-establishment 5-Star Movement formed a coalition government in Italy last year and took aim at pro-European Union Macron's En Marche (On the Move) party.
Di Maio said he met leaders of France's "yellow vest" anti-government movement leader Christophe Chalencon and candidates on the grassroots movement's list for European Parliament elections in May.
"The winds of change have crossed the Alps," Di Maio said on Twitter. He has previously expressed support for the movement.
The at time violent "yellow vests" protests have been a political thorn in President Emmanuel Macron's side since November as support among the French electorate for his reform agenda has ebbed.
France's foreign ministry slammed the meeting between Di Maio and leaders of France's "yellow vest" movement, accusing him of undermining relations between the two European neighbors.
"This new provocation is not acceptable between neighboring countries and partners in the European Union," a foreign ministry spokesman said in a daily online briefing.
"Mr Di Maio, who holds government responsibilities, must take care not to undermine, through his repeated interferences, our bilateral relations, in the interest of both France and Italy."
France has already summoned Italy's ambassador in the past, after Di Maio, accused Paris of creating poverty in Africa and generating mass migration to Europe.
"Macron may no longer be our interlocutor (in the future)," Matteo Salvini said in an interview with Italian state-owned radio RAI. "His support is less than 20 percent. I hope the French people can shortly make different choices," he said, referring to May's European elections.