The Italian agriculture in the 19th century enjoyed a quite poor reputation among historians, for its innovative record. This article deals with a possible counterexample, the wide diffusion of steam threshing since the 1870s. It was a highly capital-intensive machine, and thus its success seems to contrast with the scarcity of capital, which plagued the Italian agriculture. Indeed, the pattern of diffusion in time and space was influenced by the cost of capital, but the constraint was eased by outsourcing. Steam-threshers were owned by specialised entrepreneurs and rented to farmers and landowners. This successful institutional arrangement casts a lot of doubt on the negative effects of the alleged institutional rigidity on technical change.