The Genoese built a fortress on the site of present day Monaco in 1215. The current ruling Grimaldi family first seized temporary control in 1297, and again in 1331, but was not able to permanently secure its holding until 1419.
Economic development was spurred in the late 19th century with a railroad linkup to France and the opening of a casino. Since then, the principality's mild climate, splendid scenery, and gambling facilities have made Monaco world famous as a tourist and recreation center.
(From the CIA World Factbook)
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