One tiger attacked Ettore Weber, 61, on Thursday under the big top in Triggiano, in the popular southern tourist destination of Puglia, before three other tigers joined in.
The tigers toyed with the body for several minutes before emergency services and staff could intervene, Italian media said.
Demonstrators in Rome protest against the use of animals in Italian circuses in 2012. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Around 40 countries, including 20 in Europe, have at least partially banned the use of wild animals in circus performances. Britain plans to enact such a ban from next year.
Animal rights activists are campaigning for similar restrictions to be introduced in Italy.
“Time and again we've seen that keeping wild animals in captivity and forcing them to perform painful tricks can lead to neurotic behaviour and depression,” commented Elisa Allen, director of the UK wing of animal rights group Peta, which called on the public to boycott animal circuses and on the Italian government to ban them.