This essay explores the thesis that there is a close link between the way poverty develops and the character and structure of a city. For this purpose we have taken a ‘retrospective’ look at how the question of poverty was understood and confronted in the paleotechnic city, from a rationalistic point of view, and at the time of the greatest explosion of classic metropolitan areas. However, as we approach a new phase of city development, it is necessary to consider whether changes in the mechanisms that produce poverty are also taking place, particularly with reference to the new ways of relating to a territory. We are now witnessing an unprecedented scenario in the study of poverty, centered mainly on situations involving what might be referred to as vulnerability. Such situations seem to be extremely changeable, linked to factors in continuous evolution and capable of significant discrimination between individuals and groups. It is nevertheless quite clear that the way a territory is organized - offering less sociality and mutual support - may create or speed up some forms of vulnerability. It was this question that motivated the most recent empirical studies carried out by the Ce.P.Ci.T (Centre for Studies on Problems in the City and the Territory), with results that give rise to some hope and urge us towards fresh attempts to tackle this problem.