Italy has joined the rest of Europe in giving some legal rights to gay couples.

The lower Chamber of Deputies voted 369-193 with two abstentions on Wednesday to approve legislation already passed in February by the Senate.

Gay rights activists hailed the vote as historic, given that Italy was the last of the European Union's 28 nations to grant legal recognition to civil unions. But they voiced disappointment that the government had sacrificed a provision to allow gay adoption to ensure passage.

The legislation grants same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples: the possibility of having the same last name, inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights and medical decision-making rights.

But it stops far short of authorizing gay marriage, which the Vatican opposes.