in central Tuscany, Siena was once one of the most important
cities in Italy. Initially there was an Etruscan settlement here,
on the route from Volterra to Arezzo.
It then came under Roman rule and was declassified to minor city
status. Its fortunes rose again under Lombard rule, when it was
the only city on the Via Francigena between Lucca and Viterbo. It grew
a lot in this period and became economically much stronger as a result
of the commercial exploitation of its products. In 1200, the most
important families of the city and the bankers of the Papal See started
banking activity in the city. The most important sites for transactions
were the urban strip along the Francigena, and in Piazza del Campo,
the only large piazza in the city, which has its own particular and distinctive
fascination even today.
After finally surrendering to Firenze in 1559, Siena became part
of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, but having constructed a fort there,
the Medici neglected the city for the next two centuries, the result
being that Siena slipped into a deep economic and demographic crisis.
The arrival of the railway in 1850 gave fresh stimulus to
the city and to the old university, with scholars coming from all over
Europe to study. The pharmaceutical industry became firmly established
here and its old banking activities were revitalised.
Picture by Sandro Santioli