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The Romans first set up camp on the lake at Vidy, a key halt on the route from Italy to Gaul that came to be known as Lousonna. In the face of an invasion by the Alemanni in the 4th century AD, Lousonna's inhabitants fled to the hilly inland site that became the heart of medieval Lausanne.

In 1529 Guillaume Farel, one of Calvin's followers, arrived in town preaching the Reformation but it wasn't until Bern occupied the city (not a shot was fired) seven years later that the Catholics were obliged to take notice.

From the 18th century, Lausanne exerted a fascination over writers and free-thinkers, attracting such characters as Voltaire, Dickens, Byron and TS Eliot (who wrote The Waste Land here).

Lausanne, with only 10, 000 inhabitants, became capital of the Vaud canton in 1803. The city began to take on its present appearance with rapid development occurring from the latter half of the 19th century.

Today, Lausanne is a busy, vibrant city. Home to the Federal Tribunal, the highest court in the country, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Tetra Pak and the multinational tobacco conglomerate Philip Morris, it also boasts a fairly boisterous wining and dining scene.