San Gimignano

Overview

Introduction

San Gimignano is one of the most charming and picturesque of all the Tuscan hill towns (and that's saying a lot).

It's noted mainly for its medieval towers, which dominate this town in the way that skyscrapers dominate modern cities. At one time there were more than 70 towers (built as symbols of wealth and as a security precaution by the town's prosperous merchants), but only 14 remain today. For spectacular views, climb to the top of the Torre Grossa, the only tower still accessible to visitors.

Walk through the wonderfully preserved town square, the Piazza della Cisterna, and visit the 13th-century town hall, the Palazzo del Popolo. There are good views from the Rocca citadel, and the entire town is a great place to stroll and soak up the atmosphere. If you visit on the third weekend in June, you'll be rewarded with the Ferie delle Messi, a medieval parade in full costume followed by jousting tournaments.


San Gimignano is 25 mi/40 km southwest of Florence, and it takes quite a bit of time to get there from either Rome or Florence, so we suggest that you spend at least one full day and night there. That way, you'll also get to see the town after the hordes of day-trippers have left. Another option is to stay in nearby Volterra, with its Etruscan ruins and vertiginous views from high on a hilltop.

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