Scholars have traditionally divided the Francophone communities of medieval Italy into three groups:
These communities contained readers, writers, and audiences spread across Italy. In the north, this included the regions of Venice, the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna from the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries. In Tuscany an active group of merchants, notaries, and lawyers fostered a a French-speaking culture in their cities by patronizing the creation of texts in French. Beginning with the arrival of Charles I of Anjou and the establishment of the Angevin dynasty, this francophone culture spread to the south of Italy, where a significant French speaking community developed among the French aristocrats and their administrators that persisted until the mid-fifteenth century.
There was considerable interaction between these literary groups and the relationship between them was fluid rather than rigid. Thus the bibliographic division here reflects a taxonomy imposed by modern scholars rather than a reality experienced by those who participated in these literary communities.
French language texts were created and circulated in Italy in both prose and verse form. Works were also written in Occitan, a language from the area that is now Southern France, and these texts enjoyed an important circulation in Italy as well. These texts were some of the many literary models available to Italian writers of the time, and their presence contributed to the evolution of the culture of writing in Italy, and both reflected and shaped the political realities of the time. The following pages address the role of these texts in the Italian literary and political culture of the twelfth to fifteenth centuries: