San Gimignano – City of Towers
Would you like to take a leap into the Middle Ages? Then the right destination for your holiday in Italy is San Gimignano! This small town in Tuscany has in fact kept its medieval structure almost completely intact, which allows the visitor to take a dip in history. It was also declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco and it could not be otherwise: when you walk through its narrow streets and alleys, you will feel like you have returned to the Middle Ages. The high towers, the monumental palaces, the ancient alleys and the small and characteristic shops contribute to create that atmosphere of other times.
San Gimignano, an ancient fortified medieval town whose walls date back to the 11th century, is also called the city of towers: it had 72 of them. Today, about fifteen towers remain standing, the last witnesses of a glorious past. The town is also very popular for its local products including saffron and the white wine “Vernaccia di San Gimignano”.
Piazza della Cisterna is a square located at the highest point of the hill on which San Gimignano was built and owes its name to the octagonal well located in the centre. This is the town center where most of the shops are located and where the market takes place. The square is dominated by the Devil’s Tower.
Palazzo Tortoli-Treccani is an old palace also located in Piazza della Cisterna. It is a fourteenth-century building, characterized by elegant pointed mullioned windows. Next to the palace there is a severed tower, probably from the 13th century.
A little further on is the Cathedral, in Romanesque style, which preserves a real artistic treasure inside: in fact, two paintings are preserved on the walls of the three naves: the Martyrdom of San Sebastiano by Benozzo Gozzoli and the Last Judgment by Taddeo di Bartolo. In the right aisle there is the famous Chapel of Santa Fina from 1468, the most valuable treasure of the Cathedral, with its frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio, where the painter tells the sad story linked to the saint, patron saint of the town, who lived in San Gimignano and who awaited death praying.
The Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall) is located between the Torre Grossa and the Loggia del Comune, a few meters from the cathedral, on the west side of the square. On the left side of the Palace the tower erected in 1300 rises high and mighty. Inside the Town Hall, it is possible to admire the Civic Museum of San Gimignano with the cistern of 1361 placed at the entrance and the frescoes by Sodoma. The Museum also houses the Art Gallery with works by Pinturicchio and Filippino Lippi. On the right of the square there are the two Salvucci towers, rich merchants.
The Church of Sant’Agostino, after the Cathedral, is the most important church in the town: it is a real treasure trove of works of art. To see the marvellous vault depicting the Doctors of the Church, the majolica floor and the Coronation of Maria by Pollaiolo, placed on the main altar.
The Medieval Public Sources supplied the town with water. Located close to the walls under ten arches, they are still usable in their ten basins. They were once the only water system in the town. They can be reached from the centre along a steep descent to the “Porta delle Fonti” gate.
From the Cathedral it is not difficult to reach the Rocca di Montestaffoli, the castle seat of the bishop of Volterra in the Middle Ages. However, little remains of its ancient splendor. This is the best place from which to admire San Gimignano from above. The Rocca is today the ideal location for numerous festivals and cultural events. Also pay a visit to the Vernaccia di San Gimignano Wine Museum, built in the Villa della Rocca di Montestaffoli: it is the place to celebrate the excellence and tradition of local wine products. Finally, “San Gimignano 1330” is the interactive museum that tells everything you need to know about this medieval town in a fun and in-depth way.
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