Margaret Aston's, Panorama of the Renaissance is a nice visual introduction to the subject. The numerous pictures of sculpture, architecture, paintings, and books have served as a very useful companion to my other books on the Renaissance. There is only a single informational map (not including pictures of maps produced in this era) at the back of the book and the timelines are rather brief. You will need to look elswhere if these interest you e.g. The Cultural Atlas of the World: The Renaissance. The Biographical Dictionary at the end is nice; though I'd suggest using Who's Who: Europe 1450-1750 as a supplement.
This book is not a detailed treatise on the Renaissance. Nor do I think it was intended to be. Instead you will find a brief narrative running throughout the book, supplemented with a wealth of pictures, that gives a glimpse of what fuelled the Renaissance and how it affects us today. Scholarly books tend to be mostly text interspersed with a few line drawings or maps. It is easy to get lost in the words and The Panorama of the Renaissance serves as a visual reference or supplement to help get you back on the path. The narrative is somewhat too brief to stand on its on in my opinion but the pictures are often stunning.
Renaissance is a french concept meaning revival or to be born again but many people think that Renaissance means only Art - painting and sculptures. The Renaissance initiated in Italy in the 14th century and continued for more than 2 centuries, changing every aspect in life: science, war, religion, fashion, architecture, music, banking, business, phylosophy, women, eroticism and daily life. With more than 1000 brilliant illustrations, Margaret Aston explains the beauty of every facet of life, changed by Renaissance. In our times, it's a cultural need for everyone to read, understand and be delighted by the beauty of this epoch which is one of the greatest summits of humankind. Italy is the center of the Renaissance. So, don't even think about traveling to this country before you read this book. You'll be also familiar with all the museums, outside Italy, where you can enjoy the Renaissance treasures. Of great merit, are the different kinds of references at the end of the book: Bibliographical Dictionary, Timelines of Renaissance History and Culture, Maps, Glossary, Gazeteer of Museums and Galleries, Bibliography, Sources of Illustrations and Index. This book is a duty in every house.