During the time of the Renaissance, Italy was not one unified country, but a number of separate city-states. While these were distinct units, they could be grouped into geographic regions: northern Italy, which included Florence, Milan, and Venice; central Italy, which included Rome and the Papal state; and southern Italy, which included Naples and Sicily.
Florence was enormously influential as a center of trade, shipping, manufacturing, and as the home of the powerful Medici family. Milan was built on a major trade route between the rest of Europe and the Italian peninsula, and Venice was a seaport of great importance and political stability. Rome's importance was derived from its proximity to the area directly controlled by the Roman Catholic Church through the Pope. Naples and Sicily were seaports and important for trade.