Of course, Italy's manufacturing and industrial know-how has roots found throughout its history dating as far back, of course, as Ancient Rome and later places like Bologna, Florence, and Venice in the Middle-Ages and after that in cities like Milan, Genoa and Turin (in the powerhouse regions of Lombardia, Liguria and Piemonte) in the 20th century.
You can see a nice industrial breakdown of Italian cities here.
The engineering feats of Rome are well-known and documented (Aqueducts, roads, bath houses etc.) as are many of modern Italy's structures. Florence's Ponte Vecchio (technically Medieval) for example was Europe's first stone segmental arch bridge and made legendary for being the only (of many unique ones) bridge to survive World War II. Florence is also where spectacles were invented and the technique of 'silk throwing' was mastered, while watermarks first made their appearance in Bologna. Pisa is where Fibonacci - Europe's greatest medieval mathematician - spread Arabic and Hindu numerals to Europe. In medicine, the idea of "quarantine" to protect against the Black Death was first introduced in Ragusa and Venice. The latter being a city that built an empire thanks to its genius in building a maritime empire through its shipbuilding abilities.
Hour glasses first appeared (or at least recorded) in Siena (a picturesque artistic town not too far from Florence in Tuscany). The polymath, physician and engineer Guido da Vigevano - who consulted King Philip IV of France on military concerns and was Emperor Henry VII and the Queen of France's personal physician - invented war machines (such as attack boats) for the Crusades.
More from link:
"In this precious manuscript it is possible to find drawings of many
machines such as attack boats, pontoon bridges, and also two
self-propelled battle wagons, one crank-driven and the other powered by a
very sophisticated windmill on the back a wooden carriage. This last one is considered to be the prototype of the first autovehicle in history; the word "automobilis,"
meaning "self" and "moving," was created in the 14th century by the
Italian engineer Martini, who invented but never built a
crankshaft-driven, four-wheeled vehicle. King Philip never left for the Holy Land, however, and Guido's wonderful machinery was therefore never tested."
da Vigevano, in this way, preceded the great artist-engineers like Brunlleschi and Da Vinci.
Given Italian eminence in science, technology, philosophy, art and other areas in Europe, it's not surprising the first University was founded in Bologna.