Italy's President Sandro Pertini visited President Reagan at the White House, but it turned out to be more of a celebration than a visit.
American relations with Italy are at a high point, and part of the meeting between Messrs. Reagan and Pertini amounted to what one senior US official called a ''mutual admiration society.''
Most top level visitors to the White House have brought trouble with them recently. They have come to ask for something, to disagree, or to complain.
The West Germans disagreed with President Reagan over Poland. The Belgian prime minister complained about high interest rates. The Japanese told the Americans to put their economic house in order and stop making Japan a ''scapegoat.''
But in the Reagan administration's view, Italy has been about the best - and certainly the most agreeable - partner the US has had recently. It firmly supported the American responses to the hostage-taking in Iran, to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and to the military crackdown in Poland.
Not the least important, the Italians have remained firm in their commitment, made in 1979, to allow the US to place new, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on their soil. According to US officials, the Italians took the lead in persuading their fellow members in the European Community to join the international peacekeeping force patrolling the Sinai desert between Egypt and Israel. Most recently, the Italian police liberated US Army Brig. Gen. James Dozier from his Red Brigade captors.
President Pertini is known to disagree with American policies in El Salvador, but that seems to be his only major disagreement with President Reagan's foreign policy. The white-haired Pertini apparently did not say a great deal about Central America, however, in the White House meeting which he held with Reagan on March 25.
A senior US official said that in that meeting, other Italian officials noted there was much concern in Italy over Central America. But the official also said the Italians expressed strong support for Mr. Reagan's recently announced initiative for economic development in the Caribbean basin.
Summing up, a US official said that ''the general theme of strength in the US-Italian . . . relationship and a mutual expression of admiration for what these two countries were doing for each other was the highlight of the talks.''
In a departure statement at the White House, President Reagan expressed ''admiration for the constructive and courageous role'' that Italy has played in the Atlantic alliance, in the Middle East, and in its battle against terrorism.
An old freedom fighter on the side of the Americans against the dictator Benito Mussolini and the Germans in World War II, Pertini seemed to be the right man to come to celebrate a relationship which, until the freeing of General Dozier, had received little public recognition.