The Renaissance began in Italy, primarily in the cities of Florence, Rome, Venice, and Milan. These cities were able to grow and become influential centers of arts and sciences primarily because of powerful banking families that more or less ruled them.
In Florence, the wealthy banking family called the Medicis were important patrons of the arts. Lorenzo de Medici is best-known member of that family, and he was an avid patron of the arts; he was patron of both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. It has been said that 15th-century Florence "epitomizes the civilization of the Renaissance, and Lorenzo the Magnificent remains inseparable from the history of that civilization and that city."
The Visconti and Sforza families did for Milan what the Medicis did for Florence. Venice was a center for art and architechture because of its location and control of the Mediterranean. Rome was the seat of the Roman Catholic church, which was also an important patron of arts and learning.