Italian art history begins with the Etruscans. Etruscan Civilization was created on the now known Tuscany region of Italy. It isn't known where they came from, but the character of their art and many distinctive features of their religion make it clear that the original Etruscans were from a region in Asia Minor. During the Iron Age (1000 to 1 B.C.), urban civilization spread throughout Etruria - Tarquinia was probably the oldest city and is the most famous. The other centers were Caere (Cerveteri), Vulci, and Veii (Veio). When they arrived, they brought a high level of a Greek-like culture with them. Like the Greeks, the Etruscans lived in fortified cities. Their civilization stretched from the Arno River in the North to the Tiber River towards the center of the Italian peninsula in the South. The Etruscans were an agrarian people, but they also used military means to dominate the region. At the height of their power (c. 500 B.C.), the Etruscans dominated Italy from the Po river in the north to central Campania. These people rose to prosperity and power, and then disappeared, leaving behind many unanswered questions concerning their origin and their culture. For their Greek contemporaries and Roman successors, the Etruscans were clearly a different ethnic group. Little Etruscan literature remains and the language of inscriptions on their monuments has been only partially deciphered. They had an alphabet based on the Greek alphabet.Etruscan art appears nowhere as related primary upon the influences, concepts and methods of Greek art. There are marked similarities to the art of the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, Egypt, Asia Minor, and even Assyria. It also promotes Italian elements and reflects distinctively Etruscan religious beliefs. Etruscan art had great influence on subsequent Roman styles and was largely absorbed by the 1st century B.C.
Somewhere between 900 and 800 BC, the Italian peninsula was settled by a mysterious peoples called the Etruscans. We don't know where the Etruscans came from, but archaeologists suspect that they came from the eastern Mediterannean, possibly Asia Minor. We will, however, never really know where they came from or why they colonized Italy. We do know that when they came to Italy, they brought civilization and urbanization with them. They founded their civilizations in north-eastern Italy between the Appenine mountain range and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Their civilization stretched from the Arno river in the north to the Tiber river towards the center of the Italian peninsula; it was on the Tiber river that a small village of Latins, the village that would become Rome, sat. So the Romans, who were only villagers during the rise of the Etruscan civilization, were in close contact with the Etruscans, their language, their ideas, their religion, and their civilization; the Etruscans were the single most important influence on Roman culture in its transition to civilization.
Source: http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/ROME/ETRUSCAN.HTM Additional Information: http://indoeuro.bizland.com/archive/article9.html