Italian firms are top users of trade credit in an international comparison. The paper offers some clues to the determinants of this stylised fact exploiting the answers of about 1900 manufacturing firms on a wide range of contractual features, separately for domestic and foreign counterparties. The main finding is that, with the almost totality of commercial transactions made on credit, there is no evidence that trade credit is more expensive than loans. An econometric investigation shows that discounts offered have the expected effect of reducing payment delays only for customers located abroad, where customary credit periods are shorter. The result is consistent with the poor explanatory power of the discounts received for the trade debt period of domestic firms and with the evidence of larger buyers willing to exploit their market power with suppliers.