The deaths of Frederick II and Conrad IV meant the collapse of imperial power in northern and central Italy. The Hohenstaufen could not hold out in southern Italy either. Manfred fell in 1266 in the battle of Benevento against Charles of Anjou, the popes’ candidate for the throne. The attempt by Konrad IV’s son Konradin to regain the sub-Italian legacy also failed; the last legitimate Hohenstaufen was publicly beheaded in Naples in 1268. With the fall of imperial power, the political rulers in Northern Italy and Tuscany split up, especially since the cities were also involved in party struggles (Guelphs and Ghibellines). The fragmentation made it necessary in many places to enforce inner peace by transferring extraordinary, as it were, dictatorial powers to party or mercenary leaders; in many city-states this led to the temporary or permanent loss of autonomy. The widespread enforcement of such city lords (from “Podestà” to “Signore”) thus simultaneously marked an independent section of Italian city history and a transitional phenomenon in the roughly two and a half centuries of constitutional development from the city republic to the hereditary princely state.
Initially, this process was slowed down by the power of the Anjou kings of southern Italy, because King Charles I tried to shape the situation in his own way outside of his immediate domain. But in Sicily his tough regiment and the attacks of the French occupying soldiers aroused the anger of the people, which erupted in the Sicilian Vespers (March 30, 1282). Shortly afterwards, King Peter III landed . of Aragon, which due to the Hohenstaufen descent of his wife made hereditary claims, in Trapani. After long struggles, peace was concluded in 1302 and again in 1372: From then on, Sicily formed an Aragonese secondary school, while the continental Kingdom of Naples remained the Anjou. When this French dynasty died out in 1435, the Aragonese took over the inheritance, and all of southern Italy was now exposed to Spanish cultural influence.
It was not until the beginning of the 14th century that the German kings saw themselves in a position to resume Italian policy. But Henry VII’s activity, which Dante Alighieri demanded and welcomed with enthusiastic words, was undone by the early death of the Luxemburgish man (1313); the journey to Rome of Ludwig of Bavaria, carried out against the will of the Pope 1327-30, though memorable because of the imperial coronation by S. Colonna as a representative of the Roman people, remained politically largely without consequence, and the later Romzüge Charles IV., Siegmund and Frederick III. contemporaries reminded them more of representation trips than of politico-military ventures. The empire had left the political power play of the Apennine peninsula.
In central Italy, too, the crisis of universal powers had serious consequences since the middle of the 13th century. The papacy under the power-conscious Boniface VIII had come into sharp conflict with France; In 1305, under French pressure, the popes moved to Avignon for 70 years. Despite far-reaching military and financial commitments by the Curia, the Papal States effectively dissolved into a large number of independent city republics and smaller rulers. Rome itself fell into disrepair. The population shrank to 25,000 residents (1420). The consolidation attempt of the Spanish Cardinal G. Albornoz, begun in 1353ended after his death in 1367, but brought a number of effective laws to the Papal States that remained in force until the 19th century. The Occidental Schism (1378–1417) was associated with further setbacks. It was not until the renaissance papacy from Martin V to Julius II that the promotion of the state organization of the area resumed; but the Papal State remained a backward and, on the whole, badly administered structure until the Risorgimento.
In the Po Valley and Tuscany, according to globalsciencellc, the majority of virtually independent city-states and rulers decreased in the course of the 14th century. Some old princely houses such as the House of Savoy in Piedmont expanded their sphere of influence; v. a. several signories came to extensive territorial rule and finally to sovereign dignity. The Visconti in particularwith the following Sforza of Milan, the Este of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, the Gonzaga of Mantua and – at least temporarily – the Scaliger of Verona and the Carrara of Padua established real territorial states by conquering, taking over and buying further signories. It was of epoch-making importance that soon after 1400 the aristocratically run island state of Venice successfully started to acquire extensive territory on the mainland, the Terraferma. During the first half of the 15th century, the politico-military power on the peninsula was concentrated in the following states: In the Duchy of Milan the Visconti, in the Republic of Venice, in the Florentine city-state under the hegemony of the Medici, in the Papal States and the two kingdoms of Lower Italy Naples and Sicily, the 1442/43 by Alfonso I (Alfonso V of Aragon and Sicily since 1416) were combined. In the equilibrium of these powers, astute contemporaries saw the peace of Italy guaranteed; v. a. the skilful policy of Cosimo de ‘Medici was aimed at this goal. There was certainly no lack of bitter contradictions, which the states sought to fight out through mercenaries, whose leaders (“condottieri”) repeatedly acquired their own principalities. The open Italian state differences were settled in the Peace of Lodi (1454) after a common external enemy threatened Italy through the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (1453) (landing of Ottoman troops in Otranto 1480). The closure of the eastern Mediterranean by the Ottoman expansion and the gradual shift of world trade to the Atlantic coasts led to economic setbacks. But it was precisely the period of peace within Italy in the second half of the 15th century that brought about the development of art and culture of the Renaissance, Scholarship and literature of humanism, making Italy a teacher for all of Europe.
Fundamental were the leading position in the production of high-quality goods, the wealth accumulated in international trade and money, the development of urbanism and the development of an urban culture which in the rest of Europe has only found a counterpart in very few and much smaller regions. But that should arouse the desire of the big neighbors even more.