The Spanish Tuscany
by Nadia Fondelli – The “Stato dei Presidi” is a unique case in the Tuscan and the Italian history. Towards the middle of the XVI century the south of Tuscany was a part of the Republic of Siena and it was considered a crucial strategic point for the whole Mediterranean by the most important European rulers.
In 1552 Siena was tired of the heavy pressures and revolted against the emperor Charles V taking the part of France, the antagonist of the emperor. And Florence took the part of Charles V. In 1555 after one year of siege Siena surrendered and with the treaty of Florence (dated the 3rd of April 1557) Philip II of Spain, the son and successor of Charles V, assigned the territories of the Repulic of Siena to the Medici and kept for himself the south part of Tuscany known as the Costa d’Argento or Argentario, including the present territories of Orbetello, Talamone, Porto Ercole and Monte Argentario, and governed by Spanish viceroys; the “Reali Presidios di Toscana”(The Royal Viceroys of Tuscany).
The viceroys never formed a state but rather a system of harbour fortifications that enabled Spain to better control the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Mediterranean. These fortifications where reinforced between the XVI and XVII century in order to better defend the territory from dreadful and barbarian pirates.
In 1646 the viceroys were attacked by French troops, commanded by the Cardinale Mazzarino – a true gentleman of France during the era of Luigi XIV – but after two months of siege they didn’t manage to take Orbetello. The failure of the attack, in part because of the malaria and the lack of supplies, forced the French to resign and to retreat.
In 1707 during the Spanish wars the Hapsburgs of Austria took the place of the Spanish viceroys starting a series of events, also of dynastic character, maintaining and keeping these territories separate from the rest of Tuscany until 1801 when, according to the will of Napoleon, they became a part of the new Kingdom of Etruria. With the decline of Bonaparte and the following Congress of Vienna the territory became a part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.