Italpreziosi, Italy's leading precious metals trading and refining company, and on-line broker Directa have launched a platform for trading gold bullion, prompted by increasing Italian interest in investing in the metal.

Italians have traditionally favoured gold jewellery as a safe haven, but new instruments such as bullion and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have recently been gaining popularity.

A 15 percent annual rise in euro-denominated gold prices by mid-July also added appeal to bullion.

With the new Physical Gold Platform (PGP), clients of 180 banks working with Directa will be able to buy on-line gold bullion of various sizes provided by Italpreziosi, the two companies said in a statement on Friday.

The companies do not plan to launch futures trading, at least in the short term, Italpreziosi head Ivana Ciabatti said. About 15 banks have already joined the project, but it is too early to forecast trading volumes, she said.

Prices will be based on cash market quotations and continuously updated.

Italpreziosi's revenues jumped 72.6 percent to 1.134 billion euros ($1.4 billion)in 2011. Directa works with more than 180 banks, which together have more than 3,400 branches across Italy. ($1 = 0.8208 euros)