For decrease enemy's gathering rates use Drama card (WoL team fixed), especially in long matches. I don't use Mafiosi too aggressively (in the first part) because they can be revealed and you could lose them in short time... i make 10 architects and then send Cosa Nostra card ( i bet u do the same), i make no more because they are expensive.
If you want to rush you can do it like other european powers, for example xbows+pikes rush or now with 6 bersaglieri card at age II u can Musk rush (or Bersaglieri rush)
Modders improved Askari (patch 1.0.9d) so they upgrade every age up with no cost...then send Rerum Novarum card that upgrade Basilica...pay 1000 g for Zaptiè, all askari transform into stronger Zaptiè. I play them instead of Alpini, try it if u didn't make yet.
In these months i haven't play a lot, i was busy and i didn't find players from my parts to play with.
If you check on youtube u can't find any good video about italians strat because WoL team have a good channel but nobody there play Italy...
Well my strategy was eerily similar to yours (is it the only strategy?), but I haven't tried askaris as I didn't play Italy after 1.0.9.d.
Weak stats: i asked many times to improve italian special units but they don't want listen to me because i'm Italian (check my posts)...however try to use all upgrades even advanced arsenal.
Of course, they won't listen to you, that is the reason I hide my location.
Not only Italians, Incas too have VERY weak stats. So much so that they are almost unplayable. Maybe you can act as support civlisation as you get LOTS of coin, but we have limited options in that. You HAVE to finish the game with in age 2 or age 3. Once enemy reaches age 4, kiss goodbye.