If you’re looking to visit Tuscany, you might struggle to narrow down your travel list with so many great places on offer. But there’s one experience that you simply cannot miss – spending a day in San Gimignano.
This historic town in Tuscany has been around since the Etruscan era and flourished during the early Middle Ages. While the medieval town may have fallen out of the limelight, it has now become an important tourist destination and a perfect place to soak up the Tuscan sun.
Why Spend A Day In San Gimignano?
San Gimignano is famous for its many towers, medieval architecture, delicious wines, and for its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the heart of Tuscany, San Gimignano is a 46 minute drive (43 km) from the nearest major city of Siena. It is also only 1 hour from Florence by car.
San Gimignano’s historic city centre is where the original settlement (and later castle) of Silvia was built. It was renamed to San Gimignano after Bishop Germinianus saved the castle during Atilla the Hun’s invasion in the 5th century CE.
Although it dates back to Etruscan times, San Gimignano reached its height as an important stopover on the Via Francigena Catholic pilgrimage route. During this period, upper middle class merchants built many fortified tower houses as signs of their wealth. Some of these still remain, and form one of the main attractions of the area.
Things To Do In San Gimignano
If your time in San Gimignano is limited, you’re going to want to check out some of these most popular attractions.
Taste Vernaccia Di San Gimignano
A trip to Tuscany cannot be completed without a local wine tasting experience. While most areas are renowned for their own special drinks and local products, San Gimignano has something special on offer. This white wine is made from the legendary cultivar Vernaccia. It was the first local wine to be awarded DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status, in 1966.
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Explore The Piazza Della Cisterna And Piazza Del Duomo
San Gimignano’s two most well-known piazze (squares) are the Piazza Della Cisterna and the Piazza del Duomo, with the former being the main square of the town.
On one side of the triangular-shaped Cisterna square, you will find the Arc of Becci. This ancient entrance to the city centre used to form part of the defensive walls but now remains as a landmark of the historic centre of San Gimignano.
Climb A Medieval Tower
San Gimignano’s towers are arguably the main historic attraction. While only 13 remain on the hill today, it is estimated that there were over 70 at the height of the town’s prosperity. Torre Grossa is the tallest tower in the city, standing at an impressive 54 metres, and offering spectacular views of the surrounding town countryside. Some of these towers also function as museums, granting glimpses into these private monuments and the noble families who lived in them.
Admire The Frescoes At The Collegiate Church Of San Gimignano
While there is some debate about whether or not the Collegiate Church of San Gimignano was meant to be a cathedral, there is no doubt about the beauty of its frescoes. Located inside the historical city centre, this church is within walking distance from Piazza Cisterna and a great place to get up close and personal with the city’s public buildings.
Walk Down To The Ancient Aqueducts
Aqueducts built during the time of the Roman empire can still be found in San Gimignano. While it might not be inside the ancient city’s walls, just walk down the hill and you’ll find this engineering marvel. They offer an impressive glimpse into the technological abilities of the ancient civilisation that once ruled over this area. The trail also offers a great panoramic view as you descend.
Visiting San Gimignano: Practical Information
How To Get To San Gimignano
You can choose between public transport or renting a car in Tuscany, with the latter being the easiest option. From Florence, you will either take the train to Poggibonsi (a half hour bus ride from San Gimignano), or drive via the Autostrada Firenze – Siena.
Parking In San Gimignano
There are no car parks available inside the town, and cars are not allowed in the historic centre. You will need to park outside and then continue to explore on foot.
Where To Stay In San Gimignano
The majority of accommodation available on Booking.com is just outside the city, but a few options can also be found inside the town.
Where To Eat
The restaurants in San Gimignano all offer Italian-style cuisine. They are great places to sample local food and wine.
Explore Tuscany’s Medieval Culture In San Gimignano
If you’re travelling through this part of the country and need more inspiration, be sure to check out the top things to do in Tuscany.
Have you visited any spots that you feel should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments section below.