You have probably heard your traveling friends rave about the Italian town of San Gimignano, how it is a preserved medieval village in Tuscany, and how it is a “must-see” location in Italy.
Now that I have been there myself I totally agree with all of the above and more.
As one of seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Tuscany, San Gimignano is a walled, well-preserved, medieval town located high on a hilltop in central Tuscany, 35 miles southwest of Florence. Its walls date back to the 13th century. Click To Tweet and some of its cobblestoned streets and piazzas date back to the ninth century.”
As I was walking around San Gimignano, exploring its narrow streets, I felt like I had been transported back in time to a place that existed long ago.
Certainly this place is a photographer’s dream, with wonderful views around every corner. San Gimignano truly retains the authenticity of its age, yet real people live and work here today.
Known as the town of beautiful towers, or cittá dalle belle torri, San Gimignano dominates the landscape with its remaining 14 medieval towers.
The town originally had 72 towers, many of which were built as part of the homes of the wealthy, but wars and invasions have reduced the number to 14 which stand today.
The best way to explore San Gimignano is on foot as it is a very walkable town.
Of course the streets are steeply inclined, so it was good exercise for me. The piazzas in San Gimignano were also fun spots especially since I enjoy people watching. Click To Tweet
Piazza del Duomo is the main piazza in San Gimignano and includes the most important buildings as well as the two tallest towers.
The tallest tower in San Gimignano, Torre Grossa rises 54 meters or 177 feet high and affords awesome views from the top. The steps are quite step as you near the top, but the views of the town and surrounding Tuscan countryside are so worth it. For five euros you can climb to the top as well as gain admission to the Museo Civico art museum below.
The second highest tower, Torre Rognosa, is also in Piazza del Duomo and located as part of Palazzo del Podesta, the original town hall building. The building functions today as the town council of San Gimignano. Torre Rognosa is one of the oldest towers, dating back to 1239, and is 50 meters or 164 feet high.
Duomo or Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta
This 11th century cathedral is not only a religious building but a destination for art lovers, like many of the ancient cathedrals in Italy. Originally a small parish church in 1056, it did not become a basilica until 1932. Inside are many frescoes considered by some to be some of the greatest artistic paintings in Italy.
Rocca e Parco Montestaffoli
This is the highest point in San Gimignano and well worth the walk up the hill to reach this peaceful setting. Olive trees and colorful wildflowers set the scene in this hilltop park where I had a panoramic view of the Tuscan countryside. What a marvelous place to sit and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.
Also, remains of a 14th century fortress are here, hence the name Rocca.
I am so glad I decided to take this day trip to San Gimignano. It is definitely one of those charming Tuscan hilltop towns not to be missed.
San Gimignano is just one of the fifty villages, towns, and cities I explored during my three-month solo trip to Italy. If you’d like to read more, you might enjoy traveling along with me in Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy, currently available on Amazon and Amazon UK.
Have you been to San Gimignano? What was your experience? I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment.
Grazie and Ciao
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Had the wonderful opportunity to bike San Gimignano in October. It was unforgettable. Also biked through Sienna, Pienza and the Chianti region. It was an unforgetahble experience.
If my memory is correct, the two tallest towers in San Giminiano were the result of a feud between the two wealthiest families during medieval times. One built the second-tallest, and in order not to be outdone, the other family erected a tower that outdid the first. Maybe it was just a tale concocted by a guide for tourists, but it made the sightseeing fun!
I was there last summer – stayed at Hotel Leon Bianco which was perfect as it was right on the piazza. The hotel was very nice and very affordable (surprisingly). Stayed during a full moon and ate dinner at the outside wall, overlooking Tuscany, every night. We were there 4 nights and had a fantastic time. We enjoyed the town so much that we canceled a day trip to Florence. We just shopped, ate, drank Brunello and relaxed. There is a wine museum that was actually just a wine bar but a lot of fun. There were musicians playing instruments in the yard around the museum, which just added to the whole Italian feeling. I found a great leather purse store and bought a large handbag that I dearly love. San Gimignano is now one of my favorite towns along with Varenna! When I go back, I plan to stay in a B&B so that I can see the inside of one of the homes!
Very nice pictures Margie! I will be in Italy on April 8-25th, and will spend 3 days in Colle di Val d’Elsa. From there, I’ll hop to San Giminiano, which is about 15 minutes from Val d’Elsa. This post makes me wish I could sleep for the next 6 weeks (and avoid cold and snow), and wake up just on time to pack!
This city is absolutely beautiful. Makes me want to pack my bags and leave tomorrow! Thanks for sharing!
I’ve been to San Giminiano last year. I had heard so many people tell how beautiful it is, but I wasn’t truly prepared to what I found. We have many beautiful towns and boroughs here in Italy, but San Giminiano is sure one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It truly stole my heart.
It’s isn’t just how well it is preserved, but also that atmosphere: the narrow streets, the red bricks, the small shops. That sense that time has forgotten to go by.
We even found a medieval festival the day we were there, which further enanced the illusion of going back in time. It was a beautiful day 🙂
You are so right about the atmosphere…That is what I love so much about these small Italian towns…and also the people…so friendly.
The festival sounds cool! Thank you so much for sharing
My husband did a pastel painting of the square..it was purchased by a restaurant on Hutchinson Island (Pietro’s on the River) and hangs in the entry. He worked from a photo I took when we visited this beautiful hilltop town many years ago. Lois
Wow That is amazing Lois!! I will have to stop in and check it out..How nice that your memories are indelibly archived on canvas for others to enjoy as well!!
I spent 3 nights there!!! Loved Loved Loved it. Walked and ate my way thru the days and played at nite. SO much fun! Bought my fave dishes there and they were so sweet about shipping. Also got a lemon cello set there too! I swear I ate pizza at those red covered tables in ur pic!!
Sounds like terrific memories Janey. Thank you for sharing and also for following my blog!!
Thank you Bonnie
Staying over night is a great option. All the crowds leave and you have this gorgeous place to yourself.
Yes, I’d love that Debra! Thanks for your input
Absolutely beautiful! I must go, I did not see this on my trip, but it reminds me a bit of Monteriggioni. I cannot return to the bel paese soon enough. 🙂
Thanks Tony, I stopped in Monteriggioni also but it is a lot smaller than San Gimignano. You must go next time!!
I visited Tuscany in 2006. This was on my list but it rained continuously for 4 days so I gave it a miss!
I don’t blame you for skipping it in the rain. You have to go back though on another Italy trip!
I have been there in December when it was quiet and mysterious and I have been there in August when it was too full and, in my opinion, spoilt by all the people.
I agree Philip,
All the Italians are on vacation in August and I can imagine how inundated San Gimignano must be then. I too prefer less crowds.
Love the photos. ..I feel as though I was there with you. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. Lori
Thank you Lori! And thank you for following too
Un po' di pepe
I’ve been 3 times and can’t wait to go back next year with my nipotina. I didn’t even mind all the tourists! Most people go for the day but it’s also nice to stay overnight when it’s quieter.
How wonderful to be able to take your nipotina!!! I agree that an overnight stay would be the best! Thanks so much
I would love to too. Have fun Christina 🙂
Wonderful! I was there only for a short time but enough to have me smitten. I think I will stay a night when I visit there next time 😉
Thank you Ishita
I know you loved this medieval town too from what I’ve read on your blog. Yes a definite need to return for more time here.
I was fascinated by San Gimignano — the skyline with the towers is a striking sight. I had just a short time to walk around there. Definitely worth a return visit sometime.
Thank you Cathy. I only had part of a day there too but like you, I was fascinated!