Are you planning to visit San Gimignano, Italy and wondering what are the best places to visit or the best things to do and see there? As you approach this fantastic village you will immediately see the famous fourteen towers! The town of San Gimignano in Italy near Siena is known for its powerful verticality. Some towers even exceed 50 metres in height and seem to give shape to the sky! San Gimignano is located between Siena and Florence, perched on a hill in the Val d'Elsa, hiding among the compact 13th century walls. Tuscany par excellence, of Etruscan origin like the nearby Certaldo and for a long time dominated by Florence (from 1354), this town has distinguished itself over time for its architectural beauty and its strategic location.
You will have no doubt guessed what to see in San Gimignano first: the view from the 'outside'! The walls about two kilometres long, the doors, the old unaltered houses, squares and the towers give us a perfect view of the medieval period. San Gimignao is an amazing plunge into the past. The amazing location of San Gimignano in Tuscany is considered a destination of high interest and is often visited by the Tuscans themselves. Why is this? Because of the structure of this town and its real historical evidence! Speaking of history, Via Francigena passed through here and was the main route for the Tuscan merchants on their way to the French fairs.
Once in the city centre, you will feel immediately surrounded by pure beauty. At this point, we at toscanainside.com want to give you some information for visiting San Gimignano and the best things to do do in San Gimignano! This small town is in fact a thick sequence of churches, houses, towers and medieval buildings; not forgetting the views over the picturesque alleys and narrow streets!
The most important squares of the village San Gimignano include the piazze della Cisterna and the Duomo Piazza where, during the 14th century public, buildings and palaces and towers of powerful noble families were built. Piazza della Cisterna has a triangular shape, the floor is made of bricks in a herringbone pattern and has a slight slope. At the centre of the square there is a well dating back to 1263 and around it surrounded by elegant houses with mullioned windows is one of the most beautiful and picturesque squares of this medieval village.
There are many places to visit in San Gimignano. We are sure you will be amazed by the amount of San Gimignano towers in the same place. It is claimed that in the 14th century there were 72! These giants that dominate the city give it a profile unique in the world and a memorable grandeur. In the Piazza della Cisterna there are the two towers of Ardinghelli, twin towers (albeit different) dating back to the 13th century. In the same square, next to the Cortesi Palace, there is also the Devil's Tower, characterized by an ancient walkway where there were once artisan shops.
Nearby, the Piazza del Duomo stands out for the verticality of the surrounding buildings and it is the monumental heart of San Gimignano. Amongst the places to see in San Gimignano are the twin Salvucci Towers, Palazzo Vecchio del Podestà opened at the bottom by a loggia and close to the mighty Rognosa Tower. The latter, also called Torre del Podesta, is almost 52 metres high and is the second highest of the San Gimignano towers. In Tuscany this tower was famous for being a prison. Also nearby is the Palazzo Comunale (or the New Palace of the Podesta) and on its side the Grossa Tower, the highest of San Gimignano. It is possible to visit this tower as long as you are able to get to the top! Needless to say that the view from the top is a unique experience and from here you can see this village as a whole and the surrounding countryside.
Once your feet are back on the ground, we suggest you visit the Town Hall, where the Civic Museum of San Gimignano is located. The art gallery has rooms full of beautiful paintings by important painters including works by Coppo di Marcovaldo, Lippo Lemmi (particularly the Majesty of 1317), Benozzo Gozzoli, Filippino Lippi and Pinturicchio. There is also a room dedicated to Dante: the Florentine poet, in exile and wandering through Italy, in 1300 stopped for a short period at San Gimignano. Things to see in San Gimignano, Italy offer one of the richest centers for Tuscan works of art , especially in the 14th and 15th centuries. In this regard, we take the opportunity to remind you that in the fourteenth century the city passed under the sphere of influence of Florence until it was completely dominated by it!
If you are visiting San Gimignano in a day, you must visit the Collegiate Church (the Cathedral); it is one of the best examples of Tuscan Romanesque style. Do not be fooled by its facade! Go up the stairs and you will see how inside the Cathedral there are unparalleled jewels: in particular the frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the spectacular Chapel of St. Fina (by Giuliano da Majano) from the Renaissance period. You'll be literally shocked by the images and colours that adorn this church dating back to 1148. The chapel was dedicated to the saint most dear to the inhabitants of the town. Legend has it that the young Fina Ciardi, born in San Gimignano, was hit by a serious illness and, despite the terrible physical suffering, she chose to lie down all the time on a wooden oak board to become almost one with the her bed. After her death, once moved from her 'bed', fragrant yellow violets flourished from the wood and they also appeared within the walls of San Gimignano. In Tuscany the word spread that visiting the tomb of the saint had the miraculous power to heal the sick, and so it soon became a place of pilgrimage and devotion.
On the subject of saints and frescoes one cannot ignore the cycle depicting the life of Saint 'Agostino narrated by Benozzo Gozzoli in the choir of the church named after the saint. The church, which is reached by the majestic Porta S. Matteo along the Via Cellolese, houses inside many works, including the altar of San Bartolo by Benedetto da Majano and a table of Pier Francesco Fiorentino ... it would be a shame not visit it. The best things to see in San Gimignano offers superb churches to explore and if you can move around on foot you will enjoy the calm of a typical medieval Tuscan village and poetic glimpses.
We, at toscanainside.com also recommend some lesser-known places to visit in San Gimignano, such as Piazza Pecori: somewhere more intimate (and secret!) next to the Collegiata. This small square is overlooked by the austere Palazzo della Prepositura, which houses the chapter archive with manuscripts of the 15th century, ancient scrolls, papal bills and therefore a paradise for philologists! If you are interested in the sculptures this area boasts the old Chaplains dormitory which is today the Museum of Sacred Art. The Museum is located in the main part of the building on two floors and hosts paintings, tables, sculptures, pottery, remains of funerary monuments, carvings and antiques.
The art works come from monasteries and churches in the area, particularly from the Collegiata; the sinopia is among the most interesting (preparatory phase of a fresco made from clay) by Domenico Ghirlandaio, and a wooden crucifix by Benedetto da Majano and also a polychrome wooden sculpture of Saint Anthony by St. Francis da Valdambrino.
Visiting San Gimignano in Tuscany is very interesting particularly when combined with tasting of local products. In addition to the great Tuscan classics of the area of Siena and Florence, you will find something more related to this village such as the rabbit with Vernaccia. Vernaccia, typical of this area, is one of the best white wines of Italy. If you prefer red wine then we suggest San Gimignano Doc or a good Chianti Colli Senesi. For those who want to engage in a more varied tasting, the Museum of Wine is a good point of information! To satisfy your appetite, we suggest you try a nice bruschetta with the famous oil of San Gimignano in Tuscany! Another product that you will find (a bit more unusual perhaps) is saffron; this spice has been a cornerstone of the economy of the country due to its export since ancient times. What do you think of a nice risotto with mascarpone cheese, artichokes and saffron? If you prefer to continue with tastings based on Tuscan bread, you can choose between various accompaniments of Tuscan salami, finocchiona, soppressata…! For vegetarians there is always pecorino cheese and uccelletto beans (baked beans)!
After these itineraries, San Gimignano is perfect for a picturesque walk to include via delle Romite near Piazza del Duomo. Along this street, you will be struck by the magical balance between the nature and the town. In the Communes age, built-up areas were created, in perfect harmony, with spaces left entirely to the green of orchards or gardens. The name 'Romite' indicates the hermits that housed numerous cells in this part of the village. Another sight to see in San Gimignano is the Santa Chiara Hospital, where there is the Pharmacy of Santa Fina (you will learn about the old pharmacy), the Archaeological Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art which often organises events and temporary exhibitions. The Archaeological Museum contains mainly pieces of Etruscan origin including artefacts originating from the necropolis that once stood in the area of San Gimignano. Other artistic places of interest include the Gallery of Modern Art named after the artist Raffaele de Grada and houses some paintings of this painter along with other by Niccolò Cannicci, Renato Guttuso, Vinicio Berti and many others.
If your trip includes San Gimignano and its surrounding area, we suggest you visit the town of Certaldo, San Miniato or, the less famous, Radicondoli. If you want to opt for the hills, the countryside and vineyards, the Chianti area is for you. If you suffer in the hot weather then from San Gimignano you can reach the sea in just over an hour's drive! If you prefer to stay in San Gimignano and to discover the surroundings, we suggest you take a trip to the Natural Reserve of Castelvecchio. It is a vast territory characterized by woods and Mediterranean scrub and the ruins of Castelvecchio it offers a wonderful overview of the area.
However, if you have time only for a brief visit, San Gimignano will meet your requirements for art and history, leisure and wine tasting. This medieval town, boasts tranquillity and the chance to shop in small shops; with the magical atmosphere of this village you will identify yourself for a moment with gallant knights and charming ladies of the court. The churches, however, will take you back to the time of pilgrimages and make you discover the life of the local saints. Finally, those looking for breath-taking views and elevated places will be fully satisfied with all the towers that there are to visit in San Gimignano!
Do not forget that you can book online on toscanainside.com several trips to San Gimignano from Florence, including a day trip with tasting which also includes Siena, Monteriggioni and the Chianti or two private tours: San Gimignano and Volterra from Florence and San Gimignano and Siena from Florence!
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Day trip to Siena, San Gimignano and the Chianti area: departure from Florence
Duration: approx. 11 hours
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Private guided tour of Siena with a short course in ice cream making
Duration: approx. 1 hour and 30 min.