RIMINI, Italy (Reuters) - Italy's economic difficulties are not as serious as they were a year ago and the end of the crisis is getting closer, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said on Sunday.

"A year ago we thought less than we do today that we were in a crisis but I believe we were in it more," Monti told a conference in Rimini.

He said that he saw the end of the crisis "getting closer in some ways".

Monti said his government had not expected its reforms, including labor market and pension overhauls, a review of spending and deregulation, to have immediate growth-boosting effects on the economy.

But he said he had expected the reforms would have led to Italy's borrowing costs falling faster than they have done, which would have made it easier for Italy's economy to start to recover.

(Reporting By Paolo Biondi, writing by Catherine Hornby)