Merchant and banker Jacopo Salviati was born in 1417 in Florence, the third son of Alamanno Salviati, a prominent banker and politician. The family descended from Fiesole. It was one of the patrician dynasties that shaped Florence and its surroundings. They built richly decorated palazzi and assembled substantial art collections.
In 1386 Jacopo joined the Florentine Arte della Lane (wool guild). With growing wealth, the family got involved in banking. The first banks were established in Florence and Pisa; in 1423 the Barcelona branch was opened; London followed in 1445; and in 1461 firms were started in Bruges, Antwerp, and Lyon. Their financial network linked the Mediterranean with Northern Europe. Jacopo was trained in Pisa. As the city was a port to Florence, it allowed him to gain knowledge of the English wool trade.
He was sent to London in 1444 to represent the family’s business interest. Italian merchants abroad tended to cooperate and divide their business territories. They formed a closely knit elite. The same families (Della Casa, Frescobaldi, Alberti, and Bardi) dominated the London and Bruges/Antwerp market for more than a century. Merchants from Florence and Pisa used the port of Southampton; those from Genoa dominated the facilities at Sandwich. Most business dealings took place in Lombard Street or nearby. The splendid Villa Salviati near Ponte alla Badia was built in the fourteenth century and is now part of the European University Institute (EUI) and houses the historical archives of the European Union.