A painting stolen almost 23 years ago may have been hidden inside the walls of an art gallery where it had been on display.
Austrian artist Gustav Klimt's Portrait of a Lady disappeared from the Ricci Oddi modern art gallery in the northern city of Piacenza during renovations in February 1997.
A gardener at the gallery told Italian state TV on Tuesday he was clearing ivy from the gallery's walls when he noticed a metal panel.
He opened it and found a bag inside a space within the walls.
When he opened the bag it contained a painting that might be Klimt's missing artwork.
Police are investigating the discovery of the painting which they said is being examined by experts to see if it is the missing Klimt or a copy of it.
Piacenza police chief Pietro Ostuni said the painting is being kept in an undisclosed location while enquiries continue.
The gallery has said it will not be commenting on the finding until the painting's authenticity is checked.
Local news website Piacenza Sera quoted gallery officials as saying that on the back of the canvas were stamps that were placed there when the painting was on loan, indicating it might indeed be the missing portrait.
"Everything points to an authentic," Laura Bonfanti, vice president of the gallery told the website.
"We are all hopeful, it would be the best Christmas present for the city."
Jonathan Papamarenghi, head of culture in Piacenza town council, said: "This is a discovery that, if confirmed, would be exceptional; above all it could be a great gift to the artistic and cultural community of the whole world."