The Kingdom of Naples ( fig. 5 ), although deprived of Sicily, with Robert of Anjou (1309-43) enjoys prestige, at the head of the Guelph party. But soon the internal insufficiencies, the impoverished economy, the arrogance and anarchy of the barons put an end to the hegemonic ambitions, accelerating its decline. ● Something similar occurs in the Kingdom of Sicily, where the central authority falls at the mercy of the aristocracy, which, as the real arbiter of the government, progressively takes possession of all the prerogatives of the crown.
In central-northern Italy, the absence of the papacy, who moved to Avignon with Clement V, favors the emergence in the Papal States, in the Marches and in Romagna, of lords such as the Malatesta, the Da Polenta, the Ordelaffi, the Manfredi. But above all in the Po Valley the most powerful lordships gradually formed, after the first apparitions at the time of Frederick II.
In Milan the Visconti dominate, who managed to have the better on the Torriani. In Verona there are the Scaligeri, striving towards the unification of a vast territory that includes and goes beyond the Veneto. In Mantua, after the Bonacolsi, the Gonzagas established themselves and in Ferrara the Este family had long established themselves. These are real states, efficient in administrative services, with a more modern tax system, with a large number of bureaucracy effectively controlled and disciplined by the central power. With the power reached, the lords become completely independent from the people who brought them to the government and break the last formal constraints by letting emperors and popes release the most diverse titles to consecrate and legitimize their full power, now hereditary. Their dominions are thus transforming themselves into principalities.
From Avignon, where the popes have established their seat, Pope John XXII, making use of the imperial vacancy, tries to take control of this part of the Italy with the sending of his legate, Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto. But the even spiritual weapons used by the Church sprout against the arguments of the jurists and provoke, once again, a more heated anti-urialist propaganda which, but without real impact, the latest heretical movements, mostly born from the troubled Franciscan world, approach.. The awareness of the inadequacy of the interpretative schemes of the monarchical power of the papacy is manifested at the doctrinal level above all in the theoretical work of Marsilio of Padua.
In Verona, the Scaligers seem to be the first to succeed in the attempt to build a state body that includes the whole of the North. Mastino della Scala, continuing the work of his predecessors, including Cangrande (1311-29), gathers under his power a large number of cities, from Cadore to the Tyrrhenian Sea. But his is too improvised and heterogeneous an aggregation to last long. The Scaligeri must thus fall within the original limits of their lordship, Verona and Vicenza.
The Venetians take advantage of the Scaliger collapse to begin their penetration into the mainland, with the purchase of Conegliano and Treviso. From then on, although committed against the Genoese for the domination of the oriental markets, they are always present in these struggles, drawing territorial advantages from them.
With greater chances of success, given the economic-financial power and compactness of the Milanese state, the hegemonic program is taken up by the Visconti, who with Matteo, Galeazzo and Archbishop Giovanni manage to put together a complex of cities and related territories in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia. Then, incorporated Genoa and Bologna, they reach out towards the Romagna and threaten Florence closely.
Under the appearances of the old Commune, a small oligarchy of rich merchants governs in Florence, on the organizational basis of the major arts and the Guelph side. Formally allied with Robert of Anjou, Florence is not always in tune with the policy of the king of Naples, aiming at expansionism in Tuscany. Furthermore, Uguccione della Faggiuola, former vicar of Henry VII for Genoa, becomes a war captain and captain of the people, as well as podestà of Pisa and prepares a Ghibelline offensive return withntro Lucca and against Florence. In 1315 Uguccione defeats the Florentines in Montecatini; Lucca becomes Ghibelline under Castruccio Castracani, even if an alliance between Lucca and Pisa is not realized. Having taken possession of Pistoia, Castruccio wins again in Altopascio (1325). Militarily weak, due to the non-popular base of its government, Florence still had to rely on the protection of Robert of Anjou and, in 1342, on the protection of Walter VI of Brienne, Duke of Athens. In 1378, financially weakened by the War of the Eight Saints against the Pope, Florence suffered the tumult of the Ciompi, the revolt of the workers not organized in the arts, of the poorest classes, who, driven by the hopes of a social renewal, constitute a popular government. After a few years, however, this experiment ceases, and the state returns to the hands of the ancient ruling class.
In Rome, in 1347, during the absence of the pope, the tribune of the people Cola di Rienzo implements an anti-baronial reform, but his dreams of restoring a national empire and a regeneration of the Church, cause him to be abandoned by those unique and real local forces, the middle class, ‘caballerotti’, merchants and Capitoline officials, who made his fascinating adventure possible. In 1357 Cardinal Egidio Albornoz issued the Constitutions which form the basis of the Papal State. In 1377 the pope returned to Rome. The following year, with the double election of Urban VI and Clement VII, the Western schism begins, which further weakens the papacy in the Italian political arena.