The Italians were making harpsichords at an early date. During the 16th century Italy was the center of harpsichord making. Italian harpsichords were ubiquitous and many have survived into the present day. They were common throughout Europe for many centuries.
Italian style instruments were widely used for accompaniment. Their thin walled case construction is not unlike bowed and plucked string instruments and thier light weight makes for easy transport.
Because Italian harpsichords have relatively short keylevers, and short jacks, the proximity of the players fingers to the actual string is minimal and it is as if the mechanism were merely an extension of the finger. Swift and precise, the Italian harpsichord is historically suited to play along with lutes, theorbos and harps in a continuo band.
They are also suited to solo repretoire and are a very good choice to play 17th century (early Baroque) compositions. The early Italinate instruments were around and used for later compositions as well while later instruments of other national school are perhaps less suited for the early compositions.
Thier sound has a somewhat greater attack and slightly less sustaining power than larger French, German or Flemish harpsichords.