San Gimignano Italy Travel Guide

San Gimignano Travel Guide
A Vagabond Life

San Gimignano Italy Travel Guide A Vagabond Life

San Gimignano Travel Guide

San Gimignano was first mentioned in 929 as a small town on the Via Francigena, the historic route leading from Northern Europe to Rome. The city grew around a church dedicated to San Gimignano who became the patron saint of the town. San Gimignano became an important stopping point for pilgrims on the section between Lucca and Siena.

During the 12th and 13th centuries the walls were strengthened and three gates were added (the St. Matthew, St. John and Fountain Gates). Like many Tuscan towns during this period the city entered into a number of long battles fought the between two rivaling families and changed hands many times. 

These competing families built mansions and tower houses to demonstrate their power and wealth with each tower becoming increasing tall until the governing council ruled no tower could be taller than comunale tower Torre Grassa adjacent to the Palazzo Communale. 

The city was a wealthy and prosperous trading centre until it was hit by The Black Plague in 1348 which killed half of its residents. After this the city went into a slow decline coming under the rule of Florence who forbade all building works.

Today San Gimignano is a beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site on the very well worn Tuscan tourist trial.

Getting There: 

Car – The simplest and most straight forward way to get to San Gimignano is to drive. There are several paid car parks outside the walls. NOTE – San Gimignano gets very busy in the peak travel period so get there early to secure a car park.

Bus – Buses travel regularly between Florence and San Gimignano, the trip takes between 1.5 and two hours. Buses depart from Via Santa Caterina da Siena, next to Santa Maria Novela train station.Sa

Table of Contents

San Gimignano Map

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San Gimignano Italy

Things To See & Do In San Gimignano Italy

San Gimignano Towers

San Gimignano Towers

San Gimignano Italy is known as the city of towers for its medieval towers that sit high above the town and can be seen for miles around. How did the towers come about? During medieval times when two rival families built tower houses as a show of power and wealth with the towers becoming increasing taller and taller until by the end of the 14th century there were 72 towers in San Gimignano.

The mad frenzy of tower building was halted when the local governing body ruled no tower could be taller than the council owned Torre Rognasa in Palazzo Comunale which stood at 52 metres.

These towers were tower – houses with workshops on the ground floor, bedrooms and living spaces on the next floors and the kitchens on the top floor. Over time additional building were built next to the towers creating grand houses and palazzo. 

Today there are 14 towers left standing.

Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta, San Gimignano

Duomo di San Gimignano

A church first stood on this site in the 10th century, when San Gimignano became an important stop on the pilgrim route the need for a larger church grew. The present church  was consecrated in 1148 in the presence of Pope Eugenius III –  a plaque on the front of the church commemorates this. San Gimignano church became very rich and powerful and was granted many papal favors.

During the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries many frescoes and sculptures were added to the church and the west wing was extended to add the vestries, the Chapel of Conception and the Chapel of St Fina.

The Duomo was bombed in World War 2 and later restored.

Palazzo Comunale

Palazzo Comunale

The Palazzo Comunale also known as the Peoples Palace (Palazzo de Popolo) is on the Piazza del Duomo and has been the seat of the San Gimiagnon council since the 13th century. Dating from the 13th century the Palazzo Comunale the building houses a courtyard on the ground floor decorated with the coats of arms from those who have held power. The first floor is a gallery where the crowd could be addressed from and the upper floors hold the Sala del Consiglio, and the civic museum and gallery.

Nest to Palazzo Comunale is the Torre Grossa (Great Tower) and the Collegiate Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Piazza della Cisterna

Piazza della Cisterna

Piazza della Cisterna is in the heart of San Gimignano. Dating from the 13th century it was once the crossroads where the Via Francigena met the route connecting Pisa with Siena, it also served as a market square as well as a place where public festivals and tournaments were held.

Piazza della Cisterna gained its name from the cistern that was placed there in 1287 for public use.

Immediately in front of the cistern is the Casa Silvestrini, once a guest house for pilgrims, on the SW side is the Becci Arch, a remenant of the 19th century walls. 

San gimignano Old Town

San Gimignano Old Town

San Gimignano is a beautifully restored UNESCO listed historic town in the heart of Tuscany.  It is a delight to wander the narrow alleys and streets of the old town, sit and have a coffee in one of the many cafes or an evening aperitivo at a quaint bar. When visiting San Gimignano it is important to remember that this is a serious tourist town and it get very busy in the warmer months so planning accordingly is important.

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