San Gimignano is scenic hill town in Tuscany, located about half-way between Florence and Siena. This town is completely enclosed by 13th-century walls. You enter via one of the gates and you will eventually find yourself in the centre of the told town, the Piazza della Cisterna. This piazza is triangular in shape and along the sides of beautiful medieval houses. What is special about this town is the skyline of medieval towers. At the height of its power, there were 72 of these tower-houses. What a sight that must have been. Today 14 survive.
The Duomo di San Gimignano is a 12th-century church with frescoes by Ghirlandaio in its Santa Fina Chapel.
In the Middle Ages, this was a stopping point for pilgrims making their way to Rome and the Vatican. It sits on the old Via Francigena route.
The town broke away from the bishops of Volterra and set out to enhance its churches and buildings. But, for two centuries, the conflict between the Guelph and the Ghibellines were rivals within San Gimignano. The result of this was the families compete to build ever tall and taller towers.
In 1348 the city was struck with the Black Death and ran across Europe, and half of the town died. It became weak and submitted to the rule of Florence.
Piazza della Cisterna
Enter this piazza from Via San Giovanni, it is the main square of the town - triangular in shape. Medieval houses line the piazza. In the centre is a well that dates to 1346 - it was the main source of water for the town's residents.
The piazza north of Piazza della Cisterna connected by a passage adjacent to an open loggia. Here is a broad set of stairs that lead up to the Collegiate Church. On the piazza is the Palazzo Comunale (city hall) and the Palazzo Podesta (mayor's house).
The large arched loggia are of note.
On many of our first visits we stayed at the Hotel Pescille, located on the route to San Gimignano (about 2 km outside of the town). This is one of our Great Places to Stay and everyone we have referred to this hotel always tells us how special it was to stay there. So relaxing to return from a day of touring and spend time time around their pool, or in the gardens. It is located in an incredible setting, the buildings and decor are the kind that really make staying in a location great. Each time we stayed there we enjoyed our stay.
Over the years, the days are more difficult to take. San Gimignano is jammed full of tourists. But, for a small town, it packs the sights and if you are looking for some small leather goods over the course of of many visits here we have dropped a few dollars in the stores.
Despite the crowds we return on a regular basis. It is a relatively easy to town to tour. Walk the main street from gate to gate and the buildings are impressive, the gelato in the piazza with the well is fantastic, and there is some decent shopping available. I have a number of briefcases that I have purchased from the stores in San Gimignano.
There is a parking lot my the main front gate, but it very quickly fills up. There is another lot at the back of the town, you just walk through the gate and in a very short time you are in the centre of town.
For the past few years we have stayed at agriturismos and I would drive into the town just as the sun came up. Great views driving up to the town and the town feels very different in the early morning or in the evening.
If have the time and to long exposure photography the tourist start to disappear
Gateways into the town centre
Streets of San Gimignano
Towers and walls of San Gimignano
Architecture in San Gimignano