Background In February 2020, a locally-acquired COVID-19 case was detected in Lombardia, Italy. This was the first signal of ongoing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the country. The outbreak rapidly escalated to a national level epidemic, amid the WHO declaration of a pandemic. Methods We analysed data from the national case-based integrated surveillance system of all RT-PCR confirmed COVID-19 infections as of March 24th 2020, collected from all Italian regions and autonomous provinces. Here we provide a descriptive epidemiological summary on the first 62,843 COVID-19 cases in Italy as well as estimates of the basic and net reproductive numbers by region. Findings Of the 62,843 cases of COVID-19 analysed, 71.6% were reported from three Regions (Lombardia, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna). All cases reported after February 20th were locally acquired. Estimates of R0 varied between 2.5 (95%CI: 2.18-2.83) in Toscana and 3 (95%CI: 2.68-3.33) in Lazio, with epidemic doubling time of 3.2 days (95%CI: 2.3-5.2) and 2.9 days (95%CI: 2.2-4.3), respectively. The net reproduction number showed a decreasing trend starting around February 20-25, 2020 in northern regions. Notably, 5,760 cases were reported among health care workers. Of the 5,541 reported COVID-19 associated deaths, 49% occurred in people aged 80 years or above with an overall crude CFR of 8.8%. Male sex and age were independent risk factors for COVID-19 death. Interpretation The COVID-19 infection in Italy emerged with a clustering onset similar to the one described in Wuhan, China and likewise showed worse outcomes in older males with comorbidities. Initial R0 at 2.96 in Lombardia, explains the high case-load and rapid geographical spread observed. Overall Rt in Italian regions is currently decreasing albeit with large diversities across the country, supporting the importance of combined non-pharmacological control measures.