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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 the bowed and plucked string instruments of the time and their 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.
These harpsichords are also suited for solo repertoire and are a very good choice to play 17th century (early Baroque) compositions. Many Italian harpsichords were made and survived and so they are suitable for playing later compositions as well. The later instruments of other national schools are perhaps less suited for the early compositions.
Italian harpsichord sound has a somewhat greater attack and slightly less sustaining power than larger French, German or Flemish harpsichords.