Italian bread (pan italiano) is famous for its crustiness. It also is known for its chunky width in proportion to its chunky length. In contrast, French bread (pan francese) is longer and thinner.
The bread of Italy draws rave reviews for the softness of its crusty texture. The softness is in the ingredients. For example, olive oil (olio di oliva) tends to be found in many Italian culinary creations in general and in Italian breads in particular. It will make for a softer taste and texture than French bread.
Additionally, the Italian way of making bread ensures that softening ingredients such as olive oil can get their work done. The trick is in what is done to the dough before it is placed in the oven. The crust will be brushed with water. The result will be the production of a chewier, softer, tasty bread.