Posted by: lizlitzow | June 29, 2010

Italian Banking Trivia

Bankers have been getting a lot of flack lately, and many may argue for good reason. This got me thinking that maybe the Italians are partly to blame, as modern banking originated in Italy. Even the word bank comes from banco which refers to the green clothed benches money lenders set up in the markets in Florence. Although there were early banks in Mesopotamia, banking re-emerged during the Crusades in Rome, Genova and Venice, with the first credit note being issued in Genova in 1156.

The fiorino, the gold coin of the Republic of Florence, became one of the most traded currencies in Europe after the Renaissance when Giovanni di Bicci dei Medici set up the multinational Medici bank, which had branches in the northern Italian city states, and other European cities.

We bank with Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, a bank you will see in every town in Tuscany. It was set up in 1472 in the Republic of Siena. The Grand Duke of the Medici’s first guaranteed savings in 1624, and something which may resonate with the citizens of the USA and UK, he asked in return to be indemnified by the entire citizenry of Siena for any losses he might incur.

Six hundred years on, Italian banks could do with a little modernisation. However, in our dealings with the Bank of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, we have nothing but praise for the Italian banking system.   It was relatively easy to set up an account,  and the bank takes care of most of our regular payments, making life much easier for us when we are not in Italy.  They may not be the most technologically advanced, and sometimes the logic does escape one. However, the officers of the bank are very helpful, some of them speak excellent English and are courteous. Time is not always of the essence, which can be infuriating.

All in all our banking experiences in Italy are all good.


  1. Hi Liz, Thanks for the wonderful history on Italian banks. It’s interesting to note how politics is involved with the banking system. Those little banking tips will help us with our next planning trip to Italy. I love your historical blogs! Keep them up, Sandra.

    • Thank you Sandra – I thought it would be interesting for people travelling to Italy to know a little history of the banking system. Not everything in Italy is chaotic and difficult to negotiate!!! Thank you for your continued reading and comments. liz

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