Yeah, it's true that Athens is strong competition, though not in the case of Sparta. Sparta is actually kind of demonised. It gets praised militarily but is thought of as culturally backwards and morally repugnant. It only really gets praised for the Battle of Thermopylae, and Athens has equivalents to that like the Battle of Marathon and Battle of Salamis that are equally overpraised and overglorified.
But yeah think the Italian city's being overrated is because of the Renaissance which I find to not only be overrated but to be almost a semi imaginary historical construct and a very ill defined one at that. When does the Renaissance start, when does it end, what does it mean, how is it different and distinct from the "early modern period"? I have never received satisfying answers to these questions and the whole concept of the Renaissance seems tied to the faulty premise that after the Classical age everything went dark and then the Renaissance put the lights on again, despite the Renaissance taking place in city states, a trapping of the political decentralization of the dark ages not the centralization of the classical ages that were supposed to be revived.