Rome, May 9 - The drop in the number of loans granted by banks in recession-hit Italy accelerated in March, the Bank of Italy said Thursday. The central bank said lending was down 1.6% compared to March 2012. The number of loans was also down in February compared to the same month in 2012, but the drop was lower - 1.4%. This acceleration is a worrying sign as attempts to pull the Italian economy out of its longest recession in 20 years will be hampered if households and businesses have trouble obtaining credit. The central bank said loans to non-financial companies were down 2.8% in March compared to the same month in 2012 and 0.8% lower for households.