Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti gestures before casting his vote at the polling station in Milan, February 24, 2013. Italians began voting on Sunday in one of the most closely watched elections in years, with markets nervous about whether it can produce a strong government to pull Italy out of recession and help resolve the euro zone debt crisis. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Rome - Italian bloggers have found imaginative ways to dodge a ban on publishing opinion polls ahead of elections - from referring to candidates as cardinals to commenting the vote like a horse race.

Under Italian law, opinion polls can be carried out but their results cannot be released in the 15 days before elections which got under way on Sunday.

One site - www.notapolitica.it - has been publishing the results of the polls as “illegal horse races” and refers to the different polling companies as “hippodromes” using disguised names.

The authors use French words for the main movements competing in the elections, like the centre-left Common Good coalition referred to as “Bien Comun”.

Berlusconi's coalition is referred to as the “Burlesque” team - a reference to allegedly raunchy parties hosted by the billionaire tycoon - who is said to be a few “seconds” behind the winner.

Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-austerity Five Star Movement, is “the five-starred” dark horse.

Outgoing prime minister Mario Monti is referred to as “Ipson de la Boccon” - an allusion to his academic career as economics professor and dean at the prestigious Bocconi University in Milan.

Another popular site - www.youtrend.it - has picked up on the theme of the upcoming conclave of cardinals to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI who will resign later this week.

The site in posts titled “Voices from the Conclave” refers to the candidates as cardinals, using their personalities and hometowns to distinguish them.

Bersani is “the jovial cardinal from Piacenza”, while Berlusconi is “the bald prelate from Monza and Brianza” or “the volcanic cardinal of Lombardy.”

Grillo is referred to as a particularly “explosive” cardinal from Genoa who has gained a good number of “ecclesiastics” in the run-up to the election.

Monti is described as “the former apostolic nuncio to Brussels” - a reference to his previous career as a high-flying European commissioner.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera's political cartoonist Giannelli also had fun combining Italian politics and the Vatican changeover.

His sketch in Sunday's edition showed Italy's outgoing president Giorgio Napolitano meeting with pope, who is due to retire to a Vatican monastery.

“If you're not happy in your convent, please remember there's a vacancy in the Quirinale” - the palace in Rome that is the seat of the presidency. - Sapa-AFP