LATE 14TH CENTURY – FIRST HALF OF THE 15TH CENTURY
In the Italy the great state organisms affirmed themselves, having swallowed up and more or less assimilated the cities and small neighboring lordships.
According to Travelationary, the Savoy State is now decidedly gravitating towards Italy. Fighting, from time to time, against the Municipalities, the Angevins, the Marquises of Monferrato, now leaning on the emperors and the Visconti, now opposing them, the Savoy family acquired ever greater influence and power in Piedmont. To seal the increased prestige, Amedeo VIII in 1416 acquired the title of duke.
The initiative, however, in the Po Valley, always belongs to the Visconti, who manage to weld in Milan a vast territory which, in addition to Lombardy, extends to Piedmont and Emilia, and at some point also includes Genoa. The industrial and commercial activities, the control of the main communication routes, make Milan one of the nodes of Italian and European politics. Gian Galeazzo within a few years takes possession of Verona and Vicenza, taken from the Scaligeri with the help of the da Carrara, from Padua, taken from the da Carrara with the help of the Venetians and, despite a powerful league set up against him from Florence with many other Italian states, succeeds in affirming its dominion throughout the Italy north-central. Paying in hard currency, he then obtains the hereditary title of Duke of Milan from Emperor Wenceslaus, thus legitimizing his lordship, which, like others, had changed into an absolute principality. On his death the building he built falls apart.
With Ladislao di Durazzo there is a brief revival of the Kingdom of Naples, with its reinvigoration inside, where the barons are tamed, and its active presence in Rome, Tuscany and even Dalmatia. However, with the death of Ladislao in 1414, the kingdom precipitated again in its ancient and now chronic dissolution.
Florence finally obtains Pisa: the whole Arno valley is thus under its dominion. However, shortly after he had to buy the port of Livorno from the French governor of Genoa, having become that of Pisa by now underground and unusable. It also conquers Volterra.
The Venetians collect the richest remains of the legacy of Gian Galeazzo Visconti (Treviso, Verona, Vicenza, Padua). Throughout the 14th century. the whole of Istria, with the exception of Trieste, which passed to the Habsburgs, is gradually absorbed. A war sustained against Sigismondo, king of Hungary and later emperor, ends with the victory of the Venetians, who take advantage of it to extend their dominion in Friuli, Carnia, Cadore and Dalmatia. The return to the foreground of the Duchy of Milan, with Filippo Maria Visconti, does not stop this expansionist process. Allied with Florence, Pope Martin V, Amedeo VIII, Venice obtained other successes and the purchase of Brescia and Bergamo, bringing its borders permanently to the Adda. The external victories consolidate the government internally in the hands of that homogeneous aristocracy of businessmen who have been directing Venetian politics for some time. The doge, in fact, is controlled and limited in his powers by the aristocratic organs, and the people, despite being excluded from the government, are satisfied in their needs and necessities by their ruling class.
For Florence, the war fought against the Visconti alongside Venice (1423-33) ends unfavorably, with serious economic, social and political consequences. The ruling oligarchy is undermined by rivalries between the major families, hated by the average and small people. In 1433, to cope with the difficulties of the moment, Rinaldo degli Albizzi assumed almost dictatorial powers. The following year, following an abrupt reversal, it was Cosimo de ‘Medici’s turn.
The general tendency of Italian politics towards the formation of regional states also pushes the papal state, by now subsiding the schism, to consolidate itself on this basis. Abandoned the theocratic claims, the papacy is restricted to its particular Roman state, stitched up piece by piece and now defended with the same precautions, with the same military and diplomatic tools used by other contemporary states.
1442: after a war for the succession to the throne of Naples which involves all the Italian states, Alfonso of Aragon takes over the Neapolitan throne. In these wars, with rapid changes in the face, the military skill and political ingenuity of the condottiere Francesco Sforza are revealed, who can count on the support of the Florentines, fearful no longer of Milan but of the much more powerful Venetian Republic. It is a diplomatic overthrow that highlights the guiding criterion of the new Italian policy: maintaining the balance between the major state bodies.
1454: the Peace of Lodi marks a certain stabilization of the Italian situation. The constitution of the Most Holy League, as the Italic League is called, unites all the Italian states in a necessary condition of peace that will last half a century.
SECOND HALF 15TH CENTURY Period marked by a succession of conspiracies and attempts at uprising against the prince, sometimes in the name of a classically longed for freedom. Often, on the other hand, these conspiracies, when not fomented by rival states, are immediately exploited by them to open hostilities (war of Ferrara, conspiracy of the Pazzi, conspiracy of the Barons). Even if, in fact, the Italic League guarantees the safety and integrity of the individual members, in reality a whole network of rivalry and suspicions ends up also aggravating internal politics, making the effort of economic and administrative reorganization more difficult, and imposes an unbearable tax burden to meet military needs and costly diplomacy. Lorenzo the Magnificent, ‘the needle of the balance of Italy.