San Gimignano, Tuscany

San Gimignano, about 50 kilometers to the southwest of Florence, is a medieval hill town that boasts twelve iconic stone towers rising above the rustic landscape.

In fact, the quaint, charming, UNESCO recognised town of San Gimignano is so well-preserved that it makes you feel as if you’ve stepped through a time machine.

What’s more; the red, stucco-tiled tower museums, historic cobblestones, and surrounding wineries make this incredibly unassuming town a must-see destination for any type of traveller.

The History of San Gimignano

Situated between Siena and Florence, the historic trading town of San Gimignano is filled with buildings and structures hinting at its past. In its prime, the town was very wealthy and enjoyed the passing trade from pilgrims on route to Rome. During its times of prosperity, the town would have been instantly recognised by its tall, brick towers of which there were over sixty. Many of the towers were owned by the wealthiest of the town’s inhabitants, who built them as a symbol of their power and to offer protection from ran sackers before the walls were built in the 13th century.

In 1348, a terrible plague killed around two-thirds of the town’s population and in its weakened state, it was taken over by the powers of Florence. The trading route was subsequently directed away from San Gimignano, destroying its financial security and plunging the town into poverty. Florence also commanded the dismantling of many of the brick towers leaving behind only a few which can be viewed today.

The town of San Gimignano today is rejuvenated, bursting with character, and thriving on its tourist industry. The buildings of the town are beautiful and although many of them originate from the 19th-century, evidence of its rich and interesting history still remains.

Best things to see in San Gimignano

  • Stroll through Piazza del Duomo & Piazza della Cisterna

    Piazza del Duomo

    As the two central squares of San Gimignano, Piazza del Duomo & Piazza della Cisterna are the most frequently visited locations in the town- making for a great central starting point. While the former is home to the iconic Duomo di San Gimignano, and boasts of impressive, thousand-year-old towers surrounding it, the latter is another medieval location encircled by cafés, shops, restaurants, and an ancient city gate. There is no way to miss these two noteworthy piazzas during your time in San Gimignano.

  • Climb the Loftiest Tower ‘Torre Grossa’

    Climb the tallest and the most popular tower of the town that offers heavenly views of the town and surrounding countryside as far as the Apuan Mountains. Standing at a whopping height of 54 meters, Torre Grossa is the only tower open to the public and hence an excellent way to experience the charm of the town. Be aware that there is no elevator in the tower so to get to the top you will have to climb the 218 steps. The staircase hugs the edge of the tower and if you peer over the edge then you will see straight to the ground floor – not for the faint-hearted or those scared of heights! The 9 EUR entrance fee not only allows you access to Torre Grossa but several other local museums and attractions as well.

  • Come home to La Rocca di Montestaffoli

    La Rocca di Montestaffoli

    Walk up the hill towards the ruins of La Rocca di Montestaffoli, a 14th-century castle built against the town walls on the highest point above the town. While the alluring olive groves provide much-needed shade from the sun, it also makes a great place to savour salami and cheese on a baguette while soaking the magnificent views of the rolling Tuscan hills and the incredible towers rising from the city centre. Each summer, Rocca plays proud host to a tournament called La Giostra dei Bastoni, which attracts crowds from all over Italy.

  • Visit the Duomo Di San Gimignano

    In the heart of this adorable town lies Duomo di San Gimignano, a twelfth-century church renowned for its classic mural’s crafted by some of ancient Italy’s most famous artists. Walk through the cathedral’s iconic hall to witness beautiful art and classical design, while gazing in awe at the nine-hundred-year-old artefacts. Check out the Duomo’s official website to schedule your visit according to its opening times!

  • Explore the museums of San Gimignano

    The museum of Palazzo Comunale is connected to the Torre Grossa and contains two rooms filled with wonderful artwork and frescoes. Within the first room, Sala di Dante, the ‘Virgin and Child’ by Lippo Memmi adorns one of the walls. On the other walls are beautiful frescoes by Azzo di Masetto that depict scenes knights on horseback and other chivalrous pursuits. On the next floor is the chamber of the Podestá that has walls coated in scenes illustrating the ‘snares of love’. Gazing at these paintings will give you an insight into not only the artistic tastes of the time.

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