San Gimignano and its medieval towers

San Gimignano and its medieval towers

San Gimignano and its medieval towers

San Gimignano still retains 13 medieval towers, but it seems that in 1300 it had as many as 72. It is for this reason that it took on the nickname of “Manhattan of the middle ages”.
It is a city of about 7,000 inhabitants south-west of Florence, in the province of Siena.
Always a destination for pilgrims, wayfarers and travelers, the city of San Gimignano fascinates with its architecture that has remained almost intact over the centuries.
Crossing Porta San Giovani, the impression is that of entering a time machine. Everything has remained in place for almost a thousand years.

The city walls and the Via Francigena

With its 2,176 meters, today the city walls enclose all the villages of the medieval city which develops, for the most part, along the north / south axis from San Matteo to San Giovanni.
This is due to the fact that the city of San Gimignano is located along the route of the Via Francigena, which is the main road that connected northern Europe to Rome. The road was built in the tenth century, after the bishop of Canterbury, Sigeric, embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome, crossing France and northern Italy.
For centuries this remained the most important way of communication with France and still today it is possible to follow it, not only for pilgrimage, but also to take a walk along the most evocative landscapes and places of Tuscany.

For more information this is the link to the official page where you can also find information on the Via Francigena card.

The towers

Due to the rapid economic development that in about three centuries brought San Gimignano, in 1200, to become one of the most important cemmercial centers in Tuscany, there was also a demographic increase. For this reason, the houses that were inside the walls developed vertically.

But they didn’t build the towers just for the demographic increase. Another reason was also the growing rivalry that snaked between aristocratic and bourgeois families, mainly due to economic, but also political reasons.
In fact, a struggle raged between the Guelphs, supporters of the pope’s power, and the Ghibellines who instead favored the emperor.

The tower therefore played a dual role in relation to the family it housed.
First, it was a defense against attacks from other families.
Secondly, it was a way of showing the wealth of the family that lived there: the higher the house, the richer and more important the family it belonged to.

Also interesting is the fact that at the time almost no tower had an entrance or a door at street level and in order to access it you had to use a staircase that was promptly removed.
So how did they get through the city and get around? Easy. They used wooden bridges between tower and tower.
Walking through San Gimignano you will notice that on the side of the towers, 30 or 40 meters above the ground, you will find a door. That door was probably located at a bridge that connected it to a nearby tower.

Piazza della Cisterna

This is the main square of San Gimignano and owes its name to the well that is located in the center of the square and is surrounded by very high medieval towers.

Still today a weekly market takes place in this square.

The Cathedral

The Collegiata Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is the city’s Cathedral.
It is a large Romanesque-style building in the center of the city, right in front of the Palazzo del Comune.

Due to its architecture and internal walls completely frescoed by some of the greatest Florentine and Sienese painters of the 1400s, it is considered one of the greatest examples of Romanesque church.

Inside, the cycle of frescoes of San Sebastiano by Benozzo Gozzoli and the Stories of Santa Fina by Domenico del Ghirlandaio. The presence of frescoes by such important authors demonstrates the economic wealth of the city.

The Fortress of Montestaffoli

Following the road that passes along the right side of the Collegiata, salkendo, you reach the Rocca di Montestaffoli.
This small fortress consists of a wall and small ramparts from which you can admire an incredible 360 ​​degree view over the Tuscan countryside.
The church of Sant’Agostino

One of the most important churches in the city is located not far from the north gate, San Matteo, and is the church of Sant’Agostino. Built in 1200, it houses some frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli and Piero del Pollaiolo.

The church is located in a splendid and quiet little square with a well in the center.

The church of Sant’Agostino

One of the most important churches in the city is located not far from the north gate, San Matteo, and is the church of Sant’Agostino. Built in 1200, it houses some frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli and Piero del Pollaiolo.

The church is located in a splendid and quiet little square with a well in the center.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano

In addition to the medieval towers, San Gimignano is famous for another product: Vernaccia.

This wine, produced only in the territory of San Gimignano, has ancient origins, probably produced as early as the 11th century.
It is a still white wine obtained from the homonymous white berried grape.
It was the first wine in Italy to receive the D.o.c (Controlled Designation of Origin), in 1966. Since 1993 it is also D.O.C.G.

Saffron

Since ancient times, a small purple flower has been cultivated in this area which produces a precious product: saffron.

In fact, it is the pistils of the flower which, when dried, develop an unmistakable color and aroma. In ancient times saffron was used to tan fabrics and give them the characteristic yellow color, today it is mostly used in the kitchen as a spice. Other uses of this precious flower were in medicine and painting.

On this official page you will find very useful information about this product.

The Gelato

In recent years, the city of San Gimignano has also become famous for another typical Italian product: ice cream.

In fact, there are several ice cream parlors that offer, in addition to traditional flavors, also original and delicious recipes that attract a large number of visitors.

Excursions to San Gimignano and its medieval towers

In addition to the excursion to San Gimignano and its surroundings alone, this city can be combined very well with a visit to Siena, Volterra, Certaldo, Chianti or Pisa.