Camfin, which is Pirelli's main shareholder with about a quarter of the company's shares, confirmed that it is "in negotiations with an industrial partner".
Although Camfin did not name the interested party, Corriere della Sera reported on Friday that the partner in talks is China Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), a state-own giant that generates about €70 billion in annual revenues.
The Chinese group was not immediately available for comment on the report.
Pirelli began business in Milan in 1872 by making bicycle wheels before moving into the nascent automobile industry.
Now a mainstay of the F1 circuit, Pirelli is equally well known for its racy calendars that have featured stars including Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot and Penelope Cruz.
The Pirelli calendar is never sold but is distributed each year by the tyre firm to thousands of VIPs, top customers, politicians and other personalities.
The group recorded revenues of €6 billion in 2014, down 0.7 percent from 2013, while operational profit rose 6.8 percent to €838 million.