Townsend has named an experienced side for the trip to Rome in the hope of securing a third win of the Championship, having recorded victories over France and England at BT Murrayfield.
Wing Tommy Seymour returns after a back injury kept him out of the 28-8 loss to Ireland, with Blair Kinghorn returning to the bench.
Glasgow Warriors centre Nick Grigg is handed his first Six Nations starting place in the backline, alongside Warriors colleague Huw Jones, with another Scotstoun team-mate, Pete Horne, joining the replacements.
Townsend has shuffled his pack, with hooker Fraser Brown, tighthead prop Willem Nel and lock Tim Swinson all promoted to the starting XV at the expense of Edinburgh trio Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan and Grant Gilchrist.
McInally retains his spot in the 23-man matchday squad, joining the replacements, but Richie Gray and Zander Fagerson, recovered from a calf and foot injury respectively, come in for Swinson and Nel on the bench for their first involvement in this year’s tournament.
Townsend said: “We’ve had a deeper look at the Ireland game, where we performed well in areas that will have to be better this weekend.
“There were a number of positives in how we took the game to Ireland in attack and defence but this didn’t lead to us scoring enough points to win the game.
“We’ve been pleased with how the players have responded to last week’s disappointment, the energy they have brought to training and a determination to improve our performance in our final match in this year’s Six Nations.”
The Scotland head coach added: “Playing Italy will be a very tough game – it always has been for any Scotland side.
“We are ready for the challenge and have an experienced group of players working hard to finish our campaign with a positive performance and result.”
Scotland team to face Italy in Rome
15. Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 59 caps
14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 42 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 15 caps
12. Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
11. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 33 caps
10. Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 36 caps
9. Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne) – 62 caps
1. Gordon Reid (London Irish) – 31 caps
2. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 30 caps
3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) – 21 caps
4. Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – 35 caps
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 42 caps
6. John Barclay CAPTAIN (Scarlets) – 70 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 19 caps
8. Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 36 caps
16. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) – 16 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) – 7 caps
18. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 15 caps
19. Richie Gray (Toulouse) – 64 caps
20. David Denton (Worcester Warriors) – 38 caps
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 15 caps
22. Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 32 caps
23. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) – 2 caps