In the tenth century Siena was located at the centre of an important commercial road that led to Rome. Thanks to the Via Francigena, which intersects the city, Siena became a main center for business: artisans and money changers banks were concentrated along the route. It’s no coincidence that in 1472, the world’s first bank was born: Monte dei Paschi di Siena.
The earliest banks were roadside stands where money changers awaited the arrival of pilgrims. The word banca (bank) comes from the tables where money was counted and exchanged. Another word that was coined here is bankrupe (bancarotta) which means broken bench, meaning that the banker’s money had run out.
Today the streets of Banchi di Sotto and Banchi di Sopra along the pilgrims’ route remind us of stories like these.