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San Gimignano, Tuscany's City of Towers

Updated on April 20, 2016
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

San Gimignano is a small, medieval hilltop town located in the province of Siena in the heart of Tuscany. Known as the “City of Beautiful Towers”, San Gimignano is the epitome of the classic Tuscan town and draws visitors from all over the world.

Of the original 72 towers in the town only 14 have survived the centuries of wars, natural disasters and the inevitable urban sprawl. The historic center of San Gimignano was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990 due to its historic significance and architectural beauty. No visit to Tuscany is complete without walking the streets of this beautiful medieval town.

Beautiful San Gimignano
Beautiful San Gimignano | Source

The first issue most travelers have with visiting San Gimignano is figuring out exactly how to pronounce its name. Hopefully this helps: Sahn Gee-mee-NYAH-no. Once you’ve mastered the pronunciation the rest is easy.

Because it’s a relatively small community San Gimignano can be explored in depth in a day or less. In fact many visitors travel to San Gimignano as a day trip from either Florence, Pisa or Siena. Because of this the town can get very crowded, especially during the peak travel season. But, despite its popularity it remains a must see on any visit to Tuscany as there is literally no other place quite like it in the world.

Have always wondered what she was thinking?
Have always wondered what she was thinking? | Source
View of the Tuscan countryside from San Gimignano.
View of the Tuscan countryside from San Gimignano. | Source

Getting there

If you’re visiting San Gimignano from one of the surrounding communities you have a few options for how to get there. If you do not have access to a vehicle then you can take a bus from either Florence, Pisa or Siena. There are also numerous bus tour groups that you can take if you don’t mind being part of a tour. San Gimignano does not have a train station so to get here utilizing the train requires taking the train to Poggibonsi and then transferring to a bus. If you have a car getting here is fairly easy and there is plenty of parking outside the walls of the town. Look for the blue and white parking signs.

La Collegiata
La Collegiata | Source

San Gimignano facts:

Population: Approximately 7500

Size: 53 square miles

Elevation: 1063 feet above sea level

Founded: 3rd century BC

Average daily July Temp: 88F

Average daily January Temp: 47F

Currency: Euro

What to see?

What separates San Gimignano from other Tuscan towns and makes it so identifiable is the presence of its fourteen medieval towers. Of the fourteen towers the Torre Grossa is the tallest in the city at 177 feet and dates back to 1298. For a fee of five euro visitors can climb the tower for a great view of San Gimignano and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.

San Gimignano also has four main piazzas, which serve as a gathering area for visitors looking to relax for a bit and take in the unique architecture. The town grew around two of these squares, the Piazza della Cisterna and the Piazza del Duomo. The triangular Piazza della Cisterna has a lovely well that stands in the centre and makes for a great gathering spot and photo opportunity. The Piazza del Duomo stands at the foot of La Collegiata, the nearest thing to a duomo (cathedral) in this small city. The Collegiata dates to the 11th century and contains a beautiful series of frescoes on Old and New Testament subjects. Seven of the fourteen towers are around the Piazza del Duomo, which makes for a beautiful setting.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Torre Grossa, the tallest of San Gimignano's 14 towers.Piazza del Duomo and the La Collegiata  (Cathedral)The TowersThe well in the Piazza della CisternaPiazza della Cisterna
The Torre Grossa, the tallest of San Gimignano's 14 towers.
The Torre Grossa, the tallest of San Gimignano's 14 towers. | Source
Piazza del Duomo and the La Collegiata  (Cathedral)
Piazza del Duomo and the La Collegiata (Cathedral) | Source
The Towers
The Towers | Source
The well in the Piazza della Cisterna
The well in the Piazza della Cisterna | Source
Piazza della Cisterna
Piazza della Cisterna | Source

More things to see and do

Other notable attractions in San Gimignano include the Palazzo del Popolo Civic Museum. The Civic Museum is located inside the Palazzo del Popolo. The museum contains some outstanding artwork and frescoes from the 13th-15th centuries. The courtyard of the Palazzo del Popolo is worth visiting to see the coat of arms that adorn its walls.

For something a little different check out the Torture Museum here in San Gimignano, which contains a unique collection of torture instruments. San Gimignano 1300 is another interesting museum that has an amazing exhibit showing a ceramic recreation of the city as it existed in 1300. And for a great panorama of the Tuscan countryside head to the Rocca (literally, a big rock) in the southwestern part of the city.

Palazzo del Popolo

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Palazzo del Popolo .  Notice the coat of arms on the walls.Palazzo del Popolo Palazzo del Popolo
Palazzo del Popolo .  Notice the coat of arms on the walls.
Palazzo del Popolo . Notice the coat of arms on the walls. | Source
Palazzo del Popolo
Palazzo del Popolo | Source
Palazzo del Popolo
Palazzo del Popolo | Source

When visiting San Gimignano be sure to take into consideration the time of year that you will visit. During the peak summer months the town can get very crowded so you may want to schedule your visit for early morning or even late afternoon and evening. Visiting in the evening after all of the tour buses have departed may be your best bet during peak months and will also allow you to avoid the summer heat.

No matter when you visit, San Gimignano offers visitors the chance to step back in time while enjoying its local products including saffron and its white wine, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Vernaccia is a white Italian wine, made from the Vernaccia grape that is produced in and around San Gimignano. It is considered to be one of Italy’s finest white wines.

Enjoy your visit to San Gimignano. There is a reason why this beautiful medieval community is so popular and that is because it is truly a one of a kind place.

Ciao for now.

San Gimignano
San Gimignano | Source

San Gimignano

A markerSan Gimignano, Italy -
San Gimignano Sienna, Italy
get directions

A markerSan Gimignano, Italy -
San Gimignano Sienna, Italy
get directions

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 4 years ago

      Lucky you :) I got back from Amaseno this month and I already want to go back! This time I visited Viterbo, but didn't have enough time to visit the museums exhibiting the remains of the Etruscan civilization. Next time then! Looking forward to reading more hubs about your experiences in Italy in September :)

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      I've been wondering what she was thinking about since we were there. Regretted not approaching her and asking. You are right in that all of Italy is a museum. Every town or village that we stopped in had something unique and interesting to offer. My mother told me that after our first visit to Italy that we would be addicted to it and she was right. We were planning our second trip before our first trip was completed and we are going back for a third time for two weeks in Sept.

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 4 years ago

      It's amazing how many beautiful places you can visit in Italy, isn't it? The whole land is a museum, absolutely unique in the whole world! The old nonna on the pic above must be thinking about whether she should prepare penne alla romana or spaghetti al bolognese, or some other type of pasta for dinner for her Luigi and grandchildren :)

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Yes so beautiful, and the views over Tuscany...unbelievable!! hope you enjoy the movie,

      carter06 (alias : addicted lover of all things Italian)

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks carter06. It certainly is a beautiful place. I was not aware of the movie? We'll have to rent it. We've been there twice now and I still have the desire to go back. Those towers really are something.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Oh my gosh, it's so great to read this well written fantastic hub and be reminded of this beautiful Tuscan village, well done. And did you know that the movie 'Tea with Mussolini' is filmed there? Such a great movie, highlighting the lovely village & shows us how the towers were almost destroyed in the war. Thanks for sharing.

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