It was published in the collection “Issues in Economics and Finance” of the Bank of Italy “The consortia and the small business lending during the crisis.” The activities of the consortia for the access to credit for small and medium-sized enterprises has been particularly significant during the recent economic and financial crisis. This work has two objectives. First, there are described the structural characteristics of the Italian market of the mutual guarantee and its relevance for the credit to smaller firms. In this view, were used large databases (Central Credit, Cerved-Cebil) and specific surveys at operators that allow to investigate the functioning of the sector and to account for the differences at the regional level. Secondly, the work analyzes the behavior of the consortia during the period in which banks have adopted restrictive policies of offer. The results of the analysis indicate that the consortia have contributed significantly to not interrupt the flow of loans to associated companies, which have also benefited in terms of cost of credit. Support to business in the worst phase of the recession has resulted, however, in taking more risks with the consequent deterioration of credit quality.