The Mediterranean has historically been for Italy a geographical backyard, an idea, a dream of an African empire (Varsori 2016), an arena, an ensemble of policies, a grave for ambitious appetites. Today the Mediterranean is expanded, and while not overlapping with the whole Middle East, rather than continuing to stand for Italian attempts to assert itself and acquire prestige (Felsen 2018), since the mid-2010s it mostly symbolizes a combination of challenges which Italian foreign and domestic policies have been struggling to deal with. The ways in which Italian foreign policy increasingly looks at the Mediterranean region, however, is through the lenses of US desiderata and intra-EU dynamics. As will be discussed in the paper, these represent the so-called ‘three circles’ of Italian foreign policy drivers since the Cold War. This paper will attempt at unpacking the components of these circles, by focusing on the emotional element of fear and the way in which it has become institutionalized and come to influence key foreign policy choices in the MENA region and secondly it will show the extent to which the view of the southern Mediterranean from Rome suffers from American or distorted European lenses and how this impacts Italian MENA policy. In order to do so, the paper will analyse a central case study: Italian post-2011 Libyan policy.