Jenkins captained Wales in the one-off Test against South Africa last November but then found himself relegated from skipper to substitute when Gatland took over ahead of the Six Nations Championship.
The demotion hurt the Cardiff Blues star but, after making telling impacts off the bench in Wales' victories over England and Scotland, he has now been given his chance.
And the 27-year-old will lock horns with the powerful Italian pack this weekend aiming to dislodge loose-head rival Duncan Jones for good.
"The boys who have come in all have a point to prove," said Jenkins. "We all have a chance to show that we deserve that jersey.
"The first week he (Gatland) turned up I realised I wasn't going to be starting. You can always sense from training whether you are going to be in the team.
"To go from captain to the bench was really disappointing for me. I wasn't given too many reasons.
"Warren just said he wanted to go with Duncan and Adam Jones and he was going to put me on the bench. It is up to Warren what he thinks is the best team. I am used to coming off the bench but that doesn't mean I was happy with it. I hate not starting.
"This is the first chance I have had in front of Warren, the first chance he has given me to start. Now I just want to keep the jersey for the next three games."
Gatland is attempting to build intense rivalry within the squad in the belief genuine competition for places is the most effective method of driving Welsh rugby forward.
He has taken the unusual decision to replace the entire front row this week, a particularly bold move given Wales are up against one of the toughest forward packs in world rugby.
Jenkins and the inexperienced tight-head Rhys Thomas are expected to be up against powerful Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni and 'The Baron' Andrea Lo Cicero.
"The players coming in have a massive responsibility to do the job," said Gatland. "Italy have shown in the first couple of games that if we underestimate them we could embarrass ourselves.
"I am going to look pretty stupid aren't I if we don't win at home (after making all these changes)."