Italic also refers to certain typefaces (many of which have no connection to Italy). Italic type is derived from Renaissance handwriting style. The letters are slanted to the right, like this. An italic typeface is usually related to a roman typeface, but most typographers design two (or more) related faces, rather than simply slanting the roman type in a mechanical way. For instance, in most typefaces meant for reading the roman "a" is distinct from italic "a", same with "g" and "g". Some typefaces, such as the Computer Modern family designed by Donald Knuth, have both an italicized and a slanted version.
Italics indicates a stressing of a particular topic which may be considered important by readers, or which the writer wants to call attention to. It is also a way of differentiating words that are characteristically strange, or foreign. Words or phrases that are being discussed as words rather than used for their meanings are frequently italicized. Italics and small caps are examples of inconspicuous stressing: The reader's attention is only drawn to words marked this way when reading them, while they are not easily spotted when glancing at a page, as bold variants are.