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Nevertheless, Italy's importance as a hub of commercial and political power significantly waned with the opening of trade routes from the New World, as New World imports and trade routes became more influential in Europe and bypassed the East Asian and Mediterranean trade routes that the Italian city-states had dominated.Furthermore, the Italian city-states constantly engaged one another in bloody warfare, with this tension and violent rivalry culminating in the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries, a series of wars and foreign invasions that left the Italian states vulnerable to annexation by neighbouring European powers.Italian culture flourished at this time, producing famous scholars, artists, and polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli.Explorers from Italy such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, and Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery.The legacy of the Roman Empire is widespread and can be observed in the global distribution of civilian law, republican governments, Christianity and the Latin script.During the Middle Ages, Italy suffered sociopolitical collapse amid calamitous barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous rival city-states and maritime republics rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce, and banking, and even laid the groundwork for capitalism.These independent city-states and regional republics, acting as Europe's main port of entry for Asian and Near Eastern imported goods, often enjoyed a greater degree of democracy in comparison to the monarchies and feudal states found throughout Europe at the time, though much of central Italy remained under the control of the theocratic Papal States, while Southern Italy remained largely feudal, partially as a result of a succession of Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Spanish, and Bourbon conquests of the region.The Renaissance began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science, exploration, and art with the start of the modern era.

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By the mid-19th century, a rising movement in support of Italian nationalism and Italian independence from foreign control lead to a period of revolutionary political upheaval known as the Risorgimento, which sought to bring about a rebirth of Italian cultural and economic prominence by liberating and consolidating the Italian peninsula and insular Italy into an independent and unified nation-state.After various unsuccessful attempts, the Italian Wars of Independence, the Expedition of the Thousand and the capture of Rome resulted in the eventual unification of the country, now a great power after centuries of foreign domination and political division.



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