are one of my favorites:
are they hard to grow?
my bush beans were prolific last summer...do Italian green beans grow in similar conditions?
No, they are no harder than other green beans. There are Romanos which grow in bush form and there are those that grow in pole form.
You might check in on the beans and legumes forum for more suggestions. But I know that Sandhill Preservation Center has both Jeminez and Uncle Steve's Pole (both pole varieties) which are spoken of very highly by many. Someone on that forum could probably point you to a bush Romano (Italian) bean.
Here is a link that might be useful: Sandhill Preservation Center Beans
I find that there is a flavor difference between the bush and the pole Romano Italian beans. I prefer the flavor of the pole variety.
I've constructed a series of arches connected with interwoven 6' bamboo poles to support the Romanos. They hang in clusters and are easy to harvest. When well grown, they are prolific. Seeds are usually readily available in local stores.
I've been growing Romanos for well over twenty years and wouldn't consider not growing them. I love green beans and also grow Blue Lakes bush, Triomphe de'Farcy (French) and Oriental winged beans or asparagus benas.
I'd second Uncle Steve's Italian Pole bean from Sand Hill. It is my absolute favorite bean. You might also check out Franchi Seeds (distributed by Grow Italian). They have several varieties directly from Italy.
Here is a link that might be useful: Franchi Seeds
I really like Roma II bush beans. I grew the pole Romano from Burpee last year and was rather dissapointed at the pod size. They were no bigger than, and maybe slightly smaller than, the Roma II bush. I grew them next to two other pole varieties which did fine so I don't think there were any problems with the conditions. I have a feeling that this is not typical of the variety and that they may have a problem with their bean seed not being produced carefully, meaning it is producing too many "off-type" beans.
I'll probably try a different pole romano next year - I've decided this year to try as many kinds of purple pole beans as I can fit in the garden this year to see if there's anything better than my current favorite pole variety which is Violet-podded Stringless. So far I've found Trionfo Violetto and Blauhilde. I know there's at least one other type in the catalogs I have too.