The main trade routes from the east passed through the Byzantine Empire or the Arab lands and onwards to the ports of Genoa, Pisa, and Venice.Luxury goods bought in the Levant, such as spices, dyes, and silks were imported to Italy and then resold throughout Europe.Moreover, the inland city-states profited from the rich agricultural land of the Po valley.
The Italian Renaissance peaked in the mid-16th century as foreign invasions plunged the region into the turmoil of the Italian Wars.
However, the ideas and ideals of the Renaissance endured and spread into the rest of Europe, setting off the Northern Renaissance, and the English Renaissance.
Yet cultural contributions notwithstanding, some present-day historians also see the era as one of the beginning of economic regression for Italy (there were some economic downturns due to the opening up of the Atlantic trade routes and repeated foreign invasions and interference by both France and the Spanish Empire).
By the Late Middle Ages (circa 1300 onward), Latium, the former heartland of the Roman Empire, and southern Italy were generally poorer than the North.
Though today perhaps best known for Italian Renaissance art and architecture, the period saw major achievements in literature, music, philosophy, and other arts, as well as science.