Italy is one of the playable civilizations.
"Italia" was the name of the Italian Peninsula under the Roman Republic and later Empire. During the Republic, Italy (which extended at the time from Rubicon River to Calabria) was not a province, but rather the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status: for example, military commanders were not allowed to bring their armies within Italy, and Julius Caesar passing the Rubicon with his legions marked the start of the civil war.
From the 3rd century, the Roman Empire went into decline. The western half of the empire, including Italy, was flogged with invasion of "barbarian" tribes, and Rome itself was sacked twice. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Italy will not experience unity until 1870. The peninsula fell into the hands of Ostrogoths, Langobards and later Byzantines. At the half of 8th century, the Franks made their enter in Italy and established a Papal State in the centre of the peninsula - for so, separating the fates of Northern and Southern Italy.
In the 9th century, Italy saw several attacks from Arabs in the South (later conquering several places, such as Puglia and Sicily) and the rising of the Communes in the North. The 11th century marked the end of the "dark period", as well as the beginning of the struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. During the 12th century, two main events occurred: the rebellion of the Lombard League, a league of Lombardy communes, against the Holy Roman Empire in the North; and the conquest of Southern Italy by the Normans.
Between the 12th and 13th centuries, Italy developed a peculiar political pattern: as no dominant power emerged, the oligarchic city-state became the prevalent form of government, prospering through commerce and enjoying a relative political freedom (compared to the feudal and absolute monarchies in Europe) that boosted scientific and artistic advancement, ultimately creating the conditions for the Renaissance.
In Italian history, the rise of the "Signorie" (lordships) in the Centre-Northern Italian is a phase often associated with the decline of the medieval Commune system of government and the rise of the dynastic state. The composition and specific functions of the Signoria varied from city to city. In some states (such as Verona, under the Della Scala family, or Florence in the days of Cosimo de Medici and Lorenzo the Magnificent), it resembled a sort of a single-party state, in which the dominant party vested the Signoria to a single family or dynasty.
Italy at this time was notable for its merchant Republics, including the Republic of Florence and the Maritime Republics. All these cities during the time of their independence had similar (though not identical) systems of government in which the merchant class had considerable power. Although in practice these were oligarchical, and bore little resemblance to a modern democracy, the relative political freedom they afforded was conducive to academic and artistic advancement. The four "classic" Maritime Republics in Italy are Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi. However, other towns in Italy also have a history of being Maritime Republics, though historically less prominent.
The unique political structures of late Middle Ages Italy have led some to theorise that its unusual social climate allowed the emergence of a rare cultural efflorescence. Italy was divided into smaller city states and territories: the kingdom of Naples controlled the south, the Republic of Florence and the Papal States the centre, the Genoese and the Milanese the north and west, and the Venetians the east. Fifteenth-century Italy was one of the most urbanised areas in Europe. Most historians agree that the ideas that characterised the Renaissance had their origin in late 13th century Florence, in particular with the writings of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374) and Giovanni Boccaccio (c. 1313-1375), as well as the painting of Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337).
The Renaissance was so called because it was a "rebirth" of certain classical ideas that had long been lost to Europe. It has been argued that the fuel for this rebirth was the rediscovery of ancient texts that had been forgotten by Western civilisation, but were preserved in some monastic libraries and in the Islamic world, and the translations of Greek and Arabic texts into Latin. Renaissance scholars such as Niccolò de' Niccoli and Poggio Bracciolini scoured the libraries in search of works by such classical authors as Plato, Cicero and Vitruvius. The works of ancient Greek and Hellenistic writers (such as Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, and Ptolemy) and Muslim scientists were imported into the Christian world, providing new intellectual material for European scholars.
Politically, Italy has always been dominated by foreign powers (France, Spain, Napoleonic France and eventually Austria), which governed directly or indirectly the peninsula, through political marriages or alliances with the weak Italian states. After the Congress of Vienna, the movement for the re-unification of Italy revamped and found in the Kingdom of Savoy an interested leader. Through several wars and annexations from 1848 to 1870, almost all of present-day Italy was united under king Vittorio Emanuele II. This period is known as "Risorgimento" (or "resurgence").
The new Kingdom of Italy, established in 1861, quickly modernized and built a large colonial empire, colonizing parts of Africa, and countries along the Mediterranean. However, many regions of the young nation (notably, the South) remained rural and poor, originating a diaspora to Americas and even Australia. Italy won the World War I against its historical enemies, the Austrian Empire. Soon afterwards, however, the liberal state collapsed to social unrest: the Fascists, led by Benito Mussolini, took over and set up an authoritarian dictatorship. Italy joined the Axis powers in World War II, falling into a bloody Civil War after a monarchist coup ousted Mussolini in 1943, surrendering to the Allies in 1943, so eventually winning the war against Fascists and Nazi Germany in 1945.
In 1946, as a result of a Constitutional Referendum, the monarchy was abolished. The new republic was proclaimed on 2 June 1946. In the 1950s and 1960s, Italy saw a period of rapid modernization and sustained economic growth, and was accepted back in the international community. Italy was among the first members of NATO, joined ONU in 1955 and in 1957 was one of the six founders of the European Economic Community (which has later constituted the European Union).