Bronze Age Italy
The people of Italy learned to use bronze
from the people of West Asia,
perhaps from the Phoenicians
(foy-NEE-shans), who traded with them. But bronze was very expensive.
Smiths make bronze from copper and tin, and there is no tin in Italy. To get
tin, you had to travel to England or to West Asia. So most people still used stone,
wood, or bone tools. Only rich people had things made of bronze.
In the Bronze Age, Italy had a lot of small independent towns, which sometimes formed themselves into leagues to fight together (as the Greeks did for the Trojan War about the same time), and sometimes did not.
Around 2000 BC Italy, like Greece and Germany, was probably invaded by Indo-Europeans coming from West Asia. The language these invaders spoke gradually became the languages of Italy: Latin, but also Oscan, Sabine, and other languages that nobody speaks anymore. These Indo-Europeans brought with them horses, the idea of the pottery wheel, and probably many other inventions as well.
Classical Rome, by John Clare (1993). For kids, the whole political history from beginning to end.
Oxford First Ancient History, by Roy Burrell (reissued 1997). Easy reading. It skips around a lot, not trying to tell everything, just highlights.
The Romans: From Village to Empire, by Mary Boatwright, Daniel Gargola, and Richard Talbert (2004). Okay, it's a little dry, but it is up to date and has all the facts you could want.
The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC), by Tim Cornell (1995). A little more specialized.