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Situated 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

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