Shed off the burden of the barbarian invasions that have torn your beloved peninsula apart after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Take the role as general of one of the Italian city-states — Genoa, Venice, Pisa, Ragusa, Amalfi, or even the Papal States — that emerged in the chaos and restore the might that once shone from your lands. Lead armies of Condottieri and Genoese Crossbowmen to glory or establish a trade network that dominates the Silk Road! The choice of which history to write is yours.
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 and University. 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, the variant of Tuscan spoken in the city of Florence, 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.
Ottone Visconti: was Archbishop of Milan and Lord of Milan, the first of the Visconti line. Under his rule, the commune of Milan became a strong Ghibelline city and one of the Holy Roman Empire's seats in Italy.
Pietro Gradenigo: The 49th Doge of Venice, reigning from 1289 to his death in 1311. He is known as a founder of the Great Council of Venice, and restricted membership of the future Councils only to the descendants of those nobles who were its members between 1293 and 1297. The oligarchic system was created as a result of this reformation.
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 Italians are the peoples who have continuously populated the Apennine Peninsula since roughly 572 AD. Although the Italian Peninsula served as the seat of power for the Roman Empire, in 476 AD Rome fell to the Germanic tribes under the rule of Odoacer. In 493, the Byzantines (Eastern Romans) succeeded in convincing the king of the Ostrogoths, Theodoric the Great, to conquer Odoacer’s Italy. When Theodoric died in 526, the peninsula fell back into disorder, leaving it open to a Byzantine invasion led by General Flavius Belisarius in 535. However, Byzantine rule was mostly displaced by 572, when the Lombards, another Germanic tribe, invaded the region. The Italian people can thus be identified as the descendants of both the Latin peoples and the Germanic tribes.
Succeeding centuries saw the Italians form a series of different city-states, independent entities whose rule generally did not extend beyond a central city and the surrounding villages. In Northern Italy, the fall of Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire, which had ousted the Lombards, caused a long period of instability that resulted in the creation of several city-states, including Milan, Genoa, Florence, and Venice. Central Italy fared somewhat better under the control of the Papacy in Rome, but when the Pope crowned the German Otto I the Holy Roman Emperor in 962, both northern and central Italy became involved in the convoluted affairs of the German city-states. On the other hand, Southern Italy remained under the control of Lombards and Byzantines until the eleventh century, when the Normans invaded the area and founded the Kingdom of Sicily.
By the Late Middle Ages, the Italian armies were generally composed of and led by condottieri, professional mercenaries whose allegiance was given to the highest payer. Interstate conflicts usually served to maintain the status-quo of the city-states. The Italian Wars (or Renaissance Wars) of the 16th century saw the peak of these conflicts, ultimately causing the weakening of the Italian city-states.
In terms of naval warfare, the Italian navies were among the best in Europe. The region’s geography made domination of the Mediterranean crucial for commerce and culture. Venice and Genoa used their navies to effectively form remarkable maritime empires which competed with other major European states and the Ottoman Empire.
Medieval Italy was an intoxicating mix of ancient Roman architecture, rising theocratic power, and artistic rebellion. Central Italy, under the control of the Catholic Popes, exercised a prominent position in the religious and political matters of European Christendom. Northern Italy’s Florence became particularly important during the Late Middle Ages as the seat of the Renaissance, a period of great advances in the arts, music, and science. Florence’s Leonardo da Vinci was one of the major figures of the era, developing amazing works of art and pushing the limits of technology.
Nevertheless, the constant conflicts among the Italian city-states made them susceptible to foreign control. Neighboring France, Spain, and Austria proved particularly meddlesome in Italian affairs. It would not be until 1861 that, under the leadership of Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy and Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italians finally unified into a single nation that exists to this day.
The Mediterranean Monastery features architectural elements of both Gothic and Romanesque architecture. This combination is typical in Northern Italian churches and cathedrals, as well as in some chapels through Tuscany, Marche, and Umbria.
The Feudal Age architecture for the Italians and Portuguese actually comes from a fan-made mod, which became official after the release of The African Kingdoms.
It is salient that almost all unique traits for the Italians are cost reductions, possibly referring to the historical fact that Italian maritime republics established extensive trade networks.
While Italian mercenaries' loyalties were infamously fickle, Italian mercenaries played an important role in slowing down the expansion of the Ottoman Empire as evident in the historical battle of Lepanto and in the final Dracula scenario. True to gameplay, the Italian unique units, the Genoese Crossbowman and Condottiero, counters the Turks' cavalry and gunpowder units respectively, as the the Turks lack concrete answers to the Genoese Crossbowman due to lacking the Onagers and Elite Skirmishers upgrades in their tech tree.
Ironically, the Italians have one of the lowest winrates against the Turks, possibly because the Turks have a better "fast Imperial Age" strategy due to having better civilization bonuses (such as free Chemistry and free upgrades to their Scout Cavalry line) while the Italians requires an investment on a Castle for their fast Imperial strategy.
The Italians are viewed as one of the weakest civilizations in some land maps, because they lack a significant economic bonus even after receiving some buffs for their unique units. They are considered, alongside Vikings, the strongest civilization on water maps due to their discount for Dock technologies, leading to the reduction to that discount in update 44725, but extending it to University technologies to help them in land maps. The Genoese Crossbowman is the least used unique foot archer because of their cost and training time, as well the Rate of Fire, explaining the numerous buffs to these characteristics.
In the beta, the Italians could not research Squires.Their background music was different to later patches.
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 the Spanish against two new Native American civilizations (later Montezuma campaign).
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.