Perhaps you’ve heard the name, seen a postcard, marveled at the towers or just heard rumors of great gelato, well all of them have something to do with San Gimignano and so we decided to stop by this famed local on our last drive by through Tuscany.
The medieval town rises out of the Tuscan hills and vineyards very much undisturbed in the way it has looked for centuries. While it is no strange sight to see castles, bell towers and other architectural wonders that pierce the central Italian skyline, San Gimignano is unique for the 13 towers (out of an original 72) which are its signature outline. Our first glimpse came from a winding mountain road and looked just like this:
Entering the Medieval wonder:
Approaching the town is easy enough. It tends to be a bit touristy especially when we contrasted it with some tiny villages and villas in the area where we stayed. These felt like the authentic Tuscany in comparison, but San Gimignano is quite real in its own respects. The walls and medieval fortifications make driving in the city restricted for residents only. But there is ample parking outside the city walls.
How to best explore the city:
Once you’ve made it inside and explored the main piazza’s, churches and tourist shops it might be nearing lunchtime. While you can definitely sit down to some wonderful meals they will likely be overpriced in this destination. Instead we opted to get some wine, cheese, olives and other Tuscan delights from a small store, climb the 14th century Rocca di Montestaffoli and eat lunch with a view. Besides the wonders of the fortress a summertime Museum of Wine sits nearby with tastings for a small fee.
To people watch, window shop, explore cultural displays and see the touristic pulse of the town hang out in Piazza della Cisterna. This also happens to be the home of the award winning Gelato store whose identity will be easily guessed by the line pouring out the door. The town is a UNESCO world heritage site in its entirety and it is easy to understand why. The famed towers, one of which you can climb, the civic museum, the churches and streets just capture the spirit of a successful and largely unchanged city of importance.
We recommend visiting San Gimignano earlier in the day before tourist buses arrive or staying later in the evening. Lunchtime and most of the afternoon is when the big rush hits.