Decay of Kingdoms and Progress of Lordships in the 14th Century Part II

More lively forces move from the Po Valley, a substantial terrain, which also drew some advantage from the growing links with developing central and western Europe, while the south, detached from the eastern and north African world, became more and more isolated, at least as active function. Mastino della Scala, lord of Verona and Vicenza, also put his hands on Treviso, Belluno, Feltre, Brescia, Piacenza, Parma and, beyond the Apennines, Lucca: from Cadore, in short, to the mouth of the Serchio. Master of many cities, rich in family heritage, not alien, like all these gentlemen born in the midst of the city bourgeoisie, from commercial speculations, he has very large resources. According to LOCALTIMEZONE, there was talk of a royal crown that was to put a seal on so much power, of “kings of Lombardy” close to being born. But this greatness did not last long. The offended interests coalesced, turned against the Scaligeri (1336-41), overwhelmed the vast but incoherent lordship, of which only Verona and Vicenza remained. Among these coalesced interests, at the forefront, Venice, already an enemy of the Ezzelini; Venice which saw the inland streets threatened and itself encircled. And now Venice took a step towards a mainland policy. On the contrary, he began to purchase lands of his own domain: and it was Conegliano, in 1337, which was the reason and encouragement of other purchases. Beyond Venice, Giovanni Visconti, archbishop and lord of Milan after Luchino, who resumes Matteo’s plans for Lombardy and beyond. Genoa and Bologna begin to be the aim of this Visconti policy: Genoa has been almost the port of Milan for a couple of centuries; Bologna, gateway to Romagna and Tuscany, crossroads of many roads, place of control of half of the Florentine trade towards Venice and the Po Valley, a large market of mercenary militias that were sold and bought there. The city, formerly Guelph and given to the papal legate, then passed by him to Taddeo Pepoli, was now badly governed by his children: and from them, John the archbishop bought it.

From Bologna, Visconti presses on Tuscany and Romagna: which were rough and broken terrains, with many cities and shaky lords, with waiting peoples, sensitive to seductions and calls from outside. Pisa, humiliated at the Meloria, divided among the parties, always fearful of Florence; Lucca, also passed through many hands of local and trans-Apennine lords and adventurers, is still rich but weak and, for these two reasons, the object of greed on every side; Florence, industrious, politically and economically present in every corner of the world, is not in a happy moment. She suffered serious defeats in Montecatini and Altopascio, she saw enemies at the gates, she felt surrounded by a circle of hatred by the cities, and she also saw Genoa in solidarity with Pisa, she is threatened from behind towards the mountains by a cloud of gentlemen, Ubertini, Pazzi, Tarlati, Ubaldini, etc., who trust a lot in foreign interventions, finds itself badly armed against the mercenary bands that have an obligatory passage in Tuscany also towards the south and a good field of rich bourgeois to harvest. And then the trade is no longer going so well. There was, also for this reason, the big banking crisis which, starting in the small banks, after 1320 rose up to the point of shaking the big companies, those that had business of all kinds in France and England. Florence was also close to the lordship. First, an Angevin, vicar for King Robert; then the Duke of Athens. The city continues its social evolution, one layer after another. Now, we are the minor artisans, who rely on the nobles. And the Duke of Athens also became lord, exploiting and fomenting popular and noble malice against the fat bourgeois, contrasts between organized and unorganized artisans. But Florence has large reserves of middle-class and upper middle class. It is too much “people” and “freedom”. It is not  municipality, is  the common: we could almost say, by now, a principle. He considers himself the representative and moral leader of those who still live in the municipality or in the municipality who want to return. Having overcome any danger of lordship, after the duke of Athens was driven out by the dregs of the people, he continued his political-social evolution, reconciling what the other cities had not been able to reconcile, popular and common regime. Therefore, now he bravely confronts the “tyrant”, the Visconti, when, urged and accompanied by the Tuscan Ghibellines, he goes down the mountains in 1351. The tyrant did not pass. He tried again the following year, he tried to squeeze Florence also on the side of Umbria: and he had Orvieto and Bettona as a dedication. But the other Tuscan and Umbrian cities, including those in which Florence had many enemies, connected. The republic, which hated tyrants, he found some adherents among those of Romagna; it also turned, the anti-Jewish city par excellence, to Charles IV, the emperor, and had secret conversations with imperial envoys who had come to Italy and entered into pacts with them. Until now, Florence had been at the head of every league against over-mountain lords. Now, rather the Visconti. Florence to the function of first and greatest adversary of every lordship that from the north or south will want to spread over the whole peninsula. Visconti went bankrupt this time too, in Tuscany, nevertheless finding compensation in Genoa, which was given to him and had by him the government and money on loan to arm galleys. The archbishop also failed in Romagna, where the stronger the position and the more energetic the action of the popes.

Po Valley 2