Such was the artistic and cultural dominance of Florence, that the language spoken there during the 14th century was, and still is, accepted as a pan-Italian language. Almost all the writers and poets in the Italian literature of the golden age are somewhat connected with Florence, leading ultimately to the adoption of the Florentine dialect above all the local dialects, as a literary language of choice.

Florentines reinvented money – in the form of the gold florin – which was the engine that drove Europe out of the "Dark Ages" - a term invented by Petrarch, a Florentine. They financed the development of industry all over Europe – from Britain to Bruges, to Lyon, to Hungary. They financed the English kings during the Hundred Years War. They financed the papacy, including the construction of Avignon and the reconstruction of Rome when the papacy returned from the so-called Babylonian Captivity.

Florence was home to the Medici, one of history's most important noble families, who revolutionized high culture and the arts. Just to cite one example: Catherine de Medici (1519–1589), married Henry II of France (reigned 1547–1559). After he died, Catherine ruled France as regent for her young sons and was instrumental in turning France into Europe's first nation-state. She brought the Renaissance into France, introducing everything from the chateaux of the Loire to the fork. She also was to 16th and 17th century European royalty what Queen Victoria was to the 19th and 20th centuries. Her children included three kings of France, Francis II (ruled 1559–1560), Charles IX (ruled 1560–1574) and Henry III (ruled 1574–1589). Her children-in-law included a fourth king of France, Henry IV (ruled 1589–1610), plus Elizabeth of Habsburg, Philip II of Spain (of Armada fame), and Mary, Queen of Scots.