After visiting the beautiful old town of Siena the day before, I was excited to continue on the medieval path through Tuscany to the small town of San Gimignano. Like many towns in the area, it originated as an Etruscan village but was built up into the town it is today during the middle ages. San Gimignano thrived during the 13th and 14th centuries due to it’s perfect location on the medieval road to Rome and the Vatican. Today, San Gimignano is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval towns in Italy and is a great place to spend a day or two.
Just as I found out the day before in Siena, these old medieval towns seem to always be built on top of a hill and the car parks seem to always down at the bottom of said hills, so again my exploration of the town started with a big up hill walk. Unlike Siena though, there are no modern buildings to walk past first, the whole town is the original old town, built within it’s old walls.
One of the most well known attractions in San Gimignano are it’s towers. Unlike most other towns in Tuscany, most of it’s original towers are still standing. In fact there are 14 all up of different heights and sizes, built between the 11th and 13th centuries. Just about anywhere you go in the town, you will have a view of at least one of these towers.
As we walked through the streets we came to Piazza Duomo which of course contains the town’s main Duomo (Collegiate Church), and the magnificent People’s Palace (or Communal Palace). The church dates back to the 11th century and is stunning inside. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos of the interior, but it contains some magnificent frescoes and other artwork that is definitely a must see.
The People’s Palace (Communal Palace) is now used as the town hall and also contains a museum and art gallery containing some very important pieces. As I walked through the archway under the huge tower I was amazed to walk into the beautifully preserved medieval courtyard of the old palace. It was as if I had gone back in time to the middle ages.
After walking down some more narrow streets between the old buildings we came out into another beautiful little piazza which is actually right next to the Piazza Duomo, the Piazza della Cisterna. Triangular in shape, the piazza is quite small but surrounded by some amazing old buildings and cafes, with a 13th century cistern (like a well or water catchment) in the middle and several of San Gimignano’s famous towers rising high above it. Also, this piazza is home to what apparently is the world’s best gelato! Obviously we had to try it and I can’t say that I disagree with it’s claim. It is by far the best ice cream that I have ever had!
All of that ice cream needs to be worked off, so we took a walk out of the Piazza della Cisterna and found ourselves near the edge of town, looking out across the countryside surrounding San Gimignano. The perfect way to end a great day in an amazing place.
If you’re heading to Tuscany, definitely put San Gimignano on your list.