Florence Exchange: the locations and the historical events
The Florence Exchange had a brief life under Napoleonic domination when it was established, along with the Livorno Exchange, in 1808. The market created by the French did not inspire trust in Florence's merchant class, although the French Code of Commercial Laws stayed in force in the Tuscan Gran Duchy and neither of the exchanges was officially closed down. Only at the end of the 1850s, following the formation of the Banca Nazionale Toscana, was the Florence Stock Exchange re-established by decree of the Grand Duchy in 1859, only a few months before annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, which ratified the law in 1861. In the 1900s, as for the other minor stock exchanges like Bologna, Trieste and Venice, the Florence Stock Exchange was directed by a Listing Committee rather than an Executive Committee. Like the other exchanges, it also ceased operations in the mid-1990s when the stock market was definitively transferred to the electronic platform.
Evidence of meetings between merchants and bankers, who traded the precursors of today's public debt bonds, are found in the Florentine mercantile tradition as early as the 1300s. Although the Florentine credit system was central to the development of European finances, there are no traces of continuity between these early practices and those in the 19th century when the modern exchanges were formed.
In the first half of the 19th century, the Florence marketplace remained second in importance to the lively Livorno market which was very active throughout the century. A strong but short-lived stimulus was given to the Stock Exchange when the capital of the Kingdom of Italy was transferred to Florence between 1864 and 1870, a period during which many banks established offices in the city. When the capital was moved to Rome, Florence underwent a period of intense crisis which, in the stock exchange, took the form of sessions held very irregularly, with frequent public disturbances and intervention on the part of the police authorities.
During the 20th century, the Florence marketplace followed the same evolution as the other minor stock exchanges, at first acting as a useful local hub in the capital accumulation system, but dwindling in importance as progress was made in telecommunications. Long before open outcry trading was replaced by the electronic system, the Florentine stockbrokers, like those of the other secondary marketplaces, were very active in arbitrage with other exchanges. This process came to a head in the last quarter of the 20th century when the number of stockbrokers fell to two.
Historically, meetings between moneychangers, merchants and bankers used to take place under the Loggia of the New Market. During the period of French domination, the Stock Exchange, along with the entire Chamber of Commerce, was first housed in Palazzo di Parte Guelfa, then in Palazzo della Ruota and then, finally, in the Court of the Uffizi.
The Florence Stock Exchange building was built between 1858 and 1860 along the Arno Riverfront, on the site of a historic atelier called a "tiratoio" where wool used to be hung out to dry. The architectural project had a significant effect on the urban fabric and it met with strident opposition. The monumental new stock exchange building, which eventually became the financial centre of the city, also housed the Chamber of Commerce and the Banca Nazionale Toscana. As part of a renovation of the building's interior between 1931 and 1933, the trading hall of the Florence Stock Exchange was set up. Today the building is the seat of the Chamber of Commerce and the former trading hall houses the Register of Companies.