As the Bubonic plague died away, leaving most of Europe's population depleted, scattered, shattered and in shambles, the black void of hopelessness was filled with the brightness of opportunity. This was no more evident than in Italy where the once feudal, semi-independent lands merged into strong city-states; where the once expendable citizens became valuable laborers, tradesmen, bankers, artists; where trade became not just expedient, but essential; where luxuries became as important as essentials; where education transcended it's rich/clerical station and became a norm for the masses; where the people found a value in living over and beyond the religious reasons and where people yearned for the new and the adventurous.
It's the new and the adventurous that concerns us. While the Renaissance kept one foot firmly planted in it's medieval culture, it's in the ways that it pulled free that in many ways revealed the glory of mankind in ways that Europe had long forgotten.
The progress accentuated by the Renaissance is most noticeable in art, music, science, philosophy and exploration.
There are so many places to find detailed information on each of these areas. The summation here will be just a compass hopefully pointing in the right directions.