The term Italic refers to all the people who spoke an idiom belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages and had settled in the Italian peninsula. The first Italic tribes, the Latino-Falisci (or "Latino-Veneti", if the membership of the ancient Veneti is also accepted), entered Italy across the eastern Alpine passes into the plain of the Po River about 1200 BC. Later they crossed the Apennine Mountains and eventually occupied the region of Latium, which included the area of Rome. Before 1000 BC, the Osco-Umbrians followed, which later divided into various groups and gradually moved to central and southern Italy.
It is therefore the set of all Indo-Europeans present exclusively in Italy in antiquity, and excludes Indo-European people that were present also in other areas of Europe, such as the Cisalpine Gauls (a Continental Celtic people) or the Messapians (related to the Illyrians). In improper sense, the term is sometimes used, especially in the non-specialized literature, to refer to all pre-Roman people of Italy, including therefore (definitely or supposedly) not Indo-European lineages as the Etruscans, the Raetians or the Elymians.
Remains of the later prehistoric age have been found in Liguria and Lombardy (stone carvings in Val Camonica). The most famous is perhaps that of Ötzi the Iceman, the mummy of a mountain hunter found in the Similaun glacier in South Tyrol, dating to c. 3300 BC. During the Copper Age, at the same time as metalworking appeared, Indo-European people migrated to Italy. Approximatively four waves of population from north to the Alps have been hypothesized on the basis of archaeological evidence. The Remedello culture is associated by some with the first identified wave of Proto-Indo-Europeans who entered Italy and took over the Po Valley.
Early and Middle Bronze Age
From the late 3rd to the early 2nd millennium BC, tribes coming both from the north and from the Franco-Iberian brought the Beaker culture and the use of bronze smithing, in the Po Valley, in Tuscany and on the coasts of Sardinia and Sicily.
In the mid-2nd millennium BC, the Terramare culture developped in the Po Valley. The Terramare culture takes its name from the black earth (terra marna) residue of settlement mounds, which have long served the fertilizing needs of local farmers. They were still hunters, but had domesticated animals; they were fairly skillful metallurgists, casting bronze in moulds of stone and clay, and they were also agriculturists, cultivating beans, the vine, wheat and flax. The Latino-Faliscan people have been associated with this culture, especially by the archaeologist Luigi Pigorini.
Late Bronze Age
From the late 2nd millennium to the early 1st millennium BC, the Late Bronze Age Proto-Villanovan culture, related to the Central European Urnfield culture, dominated the peninsula and replaced the preceding Apennine culture. The Proto-Villanovans practiced cremation and buried the ashes of their dead in pottery urns of a distinctive double-cone shape. Generally speaking, Proto-Villanovan settlements have been found in almost the whole Italian peninsula from Veneto to eastern Sicily, although they were most numerous in the northern-central part of Italy. The most important settlements excavated are those of Frattesina in Veneto region, Bismantova in Emilia-Romagna and near the Monti della Tolfa, north of Rome. The Osco-Umbrians, the Veneti, and possibly the Latino-Faliscans too, have been associated with this culture.
In the 13th century BC, Proto-Celts (probably the ancestors of the Lepontii people), coming from the area of modern-day Switzerland, eastern France and south-western Germany (RSFO Urnfield group), entered Northern Italy (Lombardy and eastern Piedmont), starting the Canegrate culture, who not long time after, merging with the indigenous Ligurians, produced the mixed Golasecca culture.
In the early Iron Age, the relatively homogeneous Proto-Villanovan culture shows a process of fragmentation. In Tuscany and in part of Emilia-Romagna, the Proto-Villanovan culture was followed by the Villanovan culture, often associated with the non-Indo-European Etruscans. In the south of the Tiber (Latium Vetus), the Latial culture of the Latins emerges, while in the north-east of the peninsula the Este culture of the Veneti appeared. Roughly in the same period, from their core area in central Italy (modern-day Umbria and Sabina region), the Osco-Umbrians began to emigrate in various waves (Ver sacrum) in southern Latium, Marche and the whole southern half of the peninsula, replacing the previous tribes, such as the Opici and the Oenotrians, that inhabited those lands before them.