Hey there, as most people seem to agree, Italians feel really unbalanced. On full water maps, they are op because of cheaper fishing ships, cheaper age ups and cheaper dock techs. Within that last two months full of Islands games, many casters and players stressed that what makes the difference between Italians beeing a good and an op water civ, is that cheaper dock techs. If you couldn’t kill your opponent on water with your early bonuses, you simply overwhelm him in early imp after all those techs.
Contrary to that, Italians feel rather weak on land maps. Yes, the genovese xbows have been buffed and are finally useable now. However, your opponents cavalry can just avoid them until they get the proper numbers/counters. You simply cannot keep up with multiple stable production when you have only one castle. Later on, you will likely face a lot of skirms and/or siege. So, you basically need to push with them in castle age or just pray that you can somehow boom and defend. Italians aren’t bad defensively, but they also do not particularly stand out, here.
Having that in mind, I would like to propose the following balance changes to Italians: Remove the 50% cheaper dock techs and give them 50% cheaper university techs instead.
That could really buff their play on land maps: Cheaper ballistics would not only be nice for their UU (improving their ability to actually hit cavalry) but also for their regular archers as their go-to option in castle age. In imp you are able to get cheaper chemistry which again helps their archers but maybe more importantly, you will be able to get to bombard cannons earlier, allowing for an early imp push. That, it seems to me, is how the civ is designed on land maps anyway. At the moment, the Itialian army composition feels really akward and if you cannot push with archers, castles and gunpowder, you are pretty much dead.
Their water play would still be great with all those eco discounts and a full tech tree. Their genovese xbows even have an additional attack bonus vs ships which isn’t all that important but can be useful in some situations when securing the cost line (e.g. in medi).
For those who wonder about historical accuracy: A great deal of oldest universities in the world are located in the medieval Italian city states (on which the civ is based), e.g. Bologna, Padua, Naples, Florence, and a lot more!