High debt countries may face the risk of self-fulfilling debt crises. If the public expects that in the future the government will be unable to roll over the maturing debt, they may refuse to buy debt today and choose to hold foreign assets. This lack of confidence may then be self-fulfilling. This paper argues that under certain conditions, the occurrence of a confidence crisis is more likely if the average maturity of the debt is short. In the contrary, a long and evenly distributed maturity structure may reduce such a risk. We consider the recent Italian experience from this perspective. In particular we ask whether recent developments in the market for government debt showy signs of unstable public confidence, and of a risk premium.