The Italian Wars were a six-cornered grand melee between Milan, Venice, Genoa, Florence, the Papacy and Naples for domination of Italy. France looked good for a while, but in the end Spain (or more accurately, the Hapsburg family) won.
Phases of the Wars
The wars fell into several distinct phases.
Phase One (-1453)
Phase Two (1478-1512)
The second phase was in 1494, when the plotting of Ludovico Sforza of Milan a.k.a. "Ludovico il Moro" encouraged French involvement. Eventually, in 1494, Charles VIII of France invaded Italy, formally beginning the next phase of the wars.
In 1512 the Swiss defeated the French, restored Milanese independence, and promptly extorted Locarno and the Lugarno valley from the Milanese - these territories are still Swiss.
Spanish intervention followed the French, and the wars finally ended with the [http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Cateau-Cambr%e9sis Treaty of Cateau-Spain as the dominant power in the region.
The Italian Wars are a popular period for SCA people to focus their activities, especially those interested in mercenary companies and other martial activities in the mid-Renaissance. There were many changes of allegiance during the wars, an activity that also appears to be popular at Rowany Festival and Spring War. The armour and weapons of the period are easy to find documentation for, and similarly the clothing and military costume of the period is colourful and attractive to wear, while not being of extraordinary difficulty for the more experienced costumer.
If you are from one of the Italian cities, you should be loyal to that city rather than to 'Italy' as a whole. The wars are bad, but the barbarians being invited into Italy are worse.
If you are from France, then you should be relaxed and comfortable about the wars. After all, is it not a fine life for a gentleman to live on his estates in the winter, and then campaign in Italy in the summer ?
If you are from England, then you should keep an eye out for the main chance. John Hawkwood and company made a decent living from the disputes ("Don't wanna hire us, guv? That's OK. I'm sure one of your neighbours will").
(plus many more)
(any images of this period, people??)
- look for works by Carpaccio.