In a game like this, every point that you don't score you end up paying for
Italy coach Jacques Brunel pointed his players back to the drawing board after a 19-14 defeat to Argentina.
Italy were one of the form teams of last season's Six Nations after securing wins over France and Ireland and coming within seven points of what would have been a momentous victory over England.
But after three defeats in South Africa on their summer tour allowed doubts to creep in, losses to Australia (50-20) and Argentina and an unconvincing 37-31 win over Fiji last week have provided Italy with more questions than answers ahead of next year's European showpiece tournament.
"It's quite a negative series for us, if you consider these two defeats and the fact we had some strong performances in the Six Nations," said Brunel.
"We had a good tournament last season, and in the summer tour we took our foot off the gas. This (series) has been a little bit strange for us.
"We'll look a little later at everything we've done individually and collectively throughout this series to see what elements we need to change."
Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez kicked 14 points to boost what was a defensively-astute display by the Pumas as they sought their first win on tour to make amends for a 40-6 thumping by Wales, which came a week after defeat to England at Twickenham.
But it could all have been so different for Italy, who showed glimpses of last season's potential only to fall victim to handling errors and costly misses from the boot of flyhalf Tomasso Allan.
Allan, a former Scotland Under-20 player, is considered a future star of the Italy team and claimed his first Azzurri try two weeks ago as a late substitute in the rout by Australia in Turin.
But despite making a positive impression on his full debut, with Luciano Orquera dropping to the bench, the 20-year-old Perpignan flyhalf ultimately spurned crucial penalty chances that would have given Italy much-needed impetus.
Brunel hopes Allan will mature in time for the 2015 World Cup, and the Frenchman refused to point the finger.
"It was a difficult match in difficult circumstances," said Brunel.
"He missed the target a few times but I saw him play a good match. He's a quality player... and we don't have so many solutions in his position so we have to help him develop."
While Brunel was kind in his assessment of missed opportunities, captain Sergio Parisse was more clinical in his appraisal.
"We set out to win this game today and gave everything to win it, but ended up losing," said the No. 8, who, along with prop Martin Castrogiovanni, made his 101st appearance.
"In a game like this, every point that you don't score you end up paying for."