Maybe the best known and most visited medieval hill town of Tuscany and Italy, San Gimignano delle Belle Torri, the city of the beautiful towers, is made unique and unmistakable thanks to its famous medieval towers.
The city of the Beautiful Towers
The incredible and spectacular skyline of towers pointing to the sky, soon imprints on your memory. You see it and immediately it becomes unforgettable 🙂
Just 13 towers out of the original 72 have survived through centuries. Imagine how San Gimignano would have looked like with as many as 72 towers! What a vision!
The towers and tower-houses were built by noble families during the Middle Ages; being a demonstration of power and wealth, each family did compete with the others to build the tallest and most beautiful tower of all.
The most popular towers are the Torre Grossa or Torre del Podestà, the Torre Rognosa, and the Torre del Diavolo. You can find one of my posts specifically dedicated to the Towers of San Gimignano with the legend about the Devil’s Tower.
San Gimignano’s Strategic Location
San Gimignano’s location in the heart of Tuscany, makes it the perfect holiday destination for anyone looking to discover the best of this wonderful region of Italy; San Gimignano is an ideal base for a holiday in Tuscany.
Rising on top of a scenic hill on the Elsa Valley, it enjoys amazing views all over the charming surrounding countryside.
About halfway between Florence and Siena, San Gimignano is still part of the Chianti region, and can be the ideal starting point to embark on a lot of day trips: from Florence and Siena to Monteriggioni, Volterra, Certaldo, and the many charming villages in Chianti.
A thousand years ago the Via Francigena, the main pilgrimage route connecting Canterbury and the north of Europe to Rome, ran right through San Gimignano.
Almost intact defensive walls enclose imposing towers and narrow streets that climb up and down the hill… San Gimignano is a village suspended in time that still retains all its medieval atmosphere; walking through its characteristic alleys is a real delight!
No wonder that San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
San Gimignano’s Top Sights and Attractions
Here is a brief guideline to San Gimignano’s main sights, hope you find that useful:
- The Museo Civico and Pinacoteca, inside the Palazzo del Podestà or Town’s Hall, is home to outstanding paintings and masterpieces of art by Benozzo Gozzoli, Pinturicchio, Pier Francesco Fiorentino, Filippino Lippi, and many others.
- Torre Grossa, also called Torre del Podestà: That’s the only tower in San Gimignano you can climb up, it’s 54 metres high and once up there you will get a vast and amazing panorama down the village and all over the surrounding green hills. You can access the tower from the Town’s Hall.
- Piazza della Cisterna is an incredibly charming and characteristic medieval square, named after the public cistern that dates back to the far 1273, to be found in the center of the piazza. The square is enclosed by towers and beautiful palaces.
- San Gimignano 1300: a real attraction! It’s a scale reproduction (all done by hand) of the medieval city in the Middle Ages, and exactly in the year 1300. You will literally embark on a journey back in time and see how San Gimignano was like at the time of its maximum development.
- The view from the Rocca: Rising on the highest part of the village is the 14th century Rocca with its one surviving tower; it is the old fortress of San Gimignano enclosing a lovely garden with figs and olive trees, and an ancient well. From the ramparts you get outstanding views over the scenic countryside.
- The Torture Museum, located within the Devil’s Tower in Piazza della Cisterna, displays all instruments and techniques of medieval torture and even preserves ancient documents of the Santa Inquisizione. A must see! actually very interesting, though a bit shocking if you consider that many of these tortures are still in use today.
- The Collegiata Church or Duomo: beautiful Romanesque church, built on three naves and filled with beautiful frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Taddeo Bartolo.
- Fonti Medievali: Medieval Fountains date back as far as the 9th century, during the Middle Ages here people got water and washed their clothes. They are characterized by 10 Romanesque arches.
I also suggest a relaxing walk all along the circle of walls surrounding San Gimignano’ s historical center, you’ll get enchanting views.
San Gimignano’s great Local Products
San Gimignano is also famous for its Vernaccia wine production and the cultivation of saffron.
- The Vernaccia white wine di San Gimignano is one of the finest white wines of Italy, and the first wine to gain the DOC denomination. I suggest you visit the Vernaccia Wine Museum, located in the Villa of the Rocca di Montestaffoli.
- Saffron is a very precious spice derived from a flower. Flowers are collected at dawn, when they are still closed. To have a kilogram of spice you need about 150,000 flowers! It still has a leading role in the economy of the town, as had in the past, especially in the 13th century when, in some cases, it was even used instead of money. Its flavor is distinctive and slightly bitter. It goes well with fish, vegetables, and meat.
Chic Hotels in San Gimignano
San Gimignano and its surroundings are full of charming hotels, farmhouses, and special accommodations. For a great stay right in San Gimignano’s historical center, I suggest the elegant and romantic 3 star hotel Antico Pozzo, offering refined bedrooms in a historical residence. Some rooms are beautifully adorned by frescoes.
While just outside San Gimignano’s mighty walls, I suggest staying at Locanda Viani, a special place with an ancient history and an extraordinary view right over San Gimignano and its irresistible towers.
Have you ever been to San Gimignano? Do visit it if you plan to come to Tuscany 🙂