The Italians are based on the medieval states in modern-day Italy, such as Venice, Genoa, Florence, and the Papal States. The Italians' unique unit, the Genoese Crossbowman, is an anti-cavalry archer. Their second unique unit, the Condottiero, is an anti-gunpowder infantry. Situated in southern Europe in modern-day Italy, the Italians were a prime center for European trade due to their strategic location of key port cities, in the game their Fishing Ships are cheaper. As a result, Italian cities became one of the wealthiest in the world during that time. To reflect their economic productivity, the Italians feature cheaper trade units, as well as cheaper upgrades from the Dock. The Italians were best known for being a center of culture and knowledge at the city of Florence during the Renaissance which revolutionized the way Europeans think. This made them ahead of other European kingdoms at that time as a result of trading with the more advanced Islamic and Far Eastern kingdoms, therefore the Italians can advance through the Ages at a lower cost. To represent the technological benefits of the Silk Road, Italians' gunpowder units cost less.
The Italians are one of the people that are cultural descendants of the Roman civilization. The other ones are the Spanish, Portuguese, and the French, that all have also Roman origins, because all these civilizations speak Romance Languages.
In-game, Italians units speak Medieval Latin, which is also spoken by the Byzantines. Historically, however, they spoke different vernacular languages descended from Latin. The modern Italian language was based almost exclusively on one of these vernacular languages, a variant of Tuscan called Florentine.
When playing a random map game against the computer, the player may encounter any of the following Italian AI characters:
Alboin: King of the Lombards from about 560 until 572.
Arechis II of Benevento: Duke of Benevento in Southern Italy. He sought to expand the Beneventos' influence into areas of Italy that were still under Byzantine control, but he also had to defend against Charlemagne, who had conquered northern Italy.
Castruccio Castracani (1281 – 3 September 1328): An Italian condottiero and duke of Lucca.
Domenico Selvo: The 31st Doge of Venice, serving from 1071 to 1084. During his reign as Doge, his domestic policies, the alliances that he forged, and the battles that the Venetian military won and lost laid the foundations for much of the subsequent foreign and domestic policy of the Republic of Venice.
Francesco I Sforza: An Italian condottiero, the founder of the Sforza dynasty in Milan, Italy, and was the fourth Duke of Milan from 1450 until his death.
Gisulf I of Salerno: Prince of Salerno (952–977), he took to using the title "prince of the people of the Lombards".
Liutprand the Lombard: The King of the Lombards from 712 to 744 and he is often regarded as the most successful Lombard monarch, notable for the Donation of Sutri, which was the first accolade of sovereign territory to the Papacy.
Maurizio Galbaio: The seventh traditional, but fifth historical, Doge of Venice from 764 to his death. He was the first great doge, who reigned for 22 years and set Venice on its path to independence and success.
Pietro Gradenigo: The 49th Doge of Venice, reigning from 1289 to his death in 1311.
Pope Gregory VII: Born Hildebrand of Sovana, he was Pope from 22 April 1073 to his death in 1085. One of the great reforming popes, he is perhaps best known for the part he played in the Investiture Controversy, his dispute with Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor that affirmed the primacy of papal authority and the new canon law governing the election of the pope by the College of Cardinals.
Simone Boccanegra: The first Doge of Genoa. He became doge in 1339, but was ousted from power six years later. He regained the position in 1356, retaining it until his death in 1363.
The Mediterranean Monastery features architectural elements of both Gothic and Romanic architecture. This combination is typical in Northern Italian churches and cathedrals, as well as in some chapels through Tuscany, Marche, and Umbria.
The background emblem at the bottom center of the user interface is the coat of arms of Genoa.
During the development of The Conquerors, the Italians had been considered to appear as the new civilization representing Western Europe region already. However, the Ensemble Studios team eventually picked the Spanish because they were impressed by El Cid's story and they planned to pit Spanish against two new Native American civilizations.
When the Forgotten Empires team was working on the Forgotten Empires mod (which eventually became The Forgotten expansion), they initially planned to add the Lombards as one of the new civilizations. But in the end, the developers modified and renamed them as the more generic Italians.