The first settlement here was an Etruscan village, since 3rd century BC. Around 1st century, during Catiline conspiracy, two patrician brothers, Murzio and Silvio, fled Rome and built two castles in Valdesa. The name of Silvia castle was changed to San Gimignano in 450 AD, after the saint of Modena, Bishop Germinianus, intervened to spare the castle from destruction by the followers of Attila the Hun.
The present look of the town, within the walls, has well preserved buildings built mostly in the 14th and 15th century in mixed Romanesque and Gothic style. The historic centre of San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Those who are wine lovers shouldn't miss to test "Vernaccia di San Gimignano", excuisite white wine produced from a grape which is exclusevely grown on the sandstone hillsides around the town.
Favorite thing: The old core of the town is full of archways, corridors, passageways which make it very charming and pictoresque. The first impression that crossed my mind was, people in medieval times used to live a kind of social life we miss today. The community and the common life together meant something to them and had important significant. Even very rich people shared walls, vaults, or arches with their neighbors. Present day rich people, and not them only, prefer to be isolated from other people, living in their own life only.
Favorite thing: San Gimignano, located in the Toscana region of Italy, seems to be a much less visited city by tourists. The streets were not crowded and we were not assailed by dozens of languages on the street. It was a very pleasant place to wander the small side streets and come upon the center of town where we sat down for a cup of coffee and enjoyed the ambience while waiting for the girls to go and get some ice cream.
Favorite thing: I had heard about the crowds at this special medevil town and didn't want that to spoil the atmosphere and experience here. So I rented a car for the day in Siena and visited Monteriggioni and Voltera before arriving in San Gimignano at around 5PM (It was May so still light). On the way I saw the bus park which had around 20 coaches in it. Most of the shops stayed open til dark, and the tower and church were open until 7PM which gave me plenty of time to see them first. Parking wasn't a problem either as there were many car parks that were being vacated as I arrived. Once dusk set in the magic was there to be felt. Empty streets and a busker playing classical music. It was great to beat the crowds. I can't imagine how busy this would have been with all the day trippers!
San Gimignano is a magical place, made more so by the city walls that surround it - I do love visiting a medieval town with its majestic walls making you feel like you are shut off from the outside world during your visit.
The original town walls were destroyed, and the current walls date back to the 13th century. They have been maintained to an excellent condition and are standing proudly today, with their 5 gates.
Fondest memory: When you arrive in San Gimignano, you will most likely enter the town via the main gate - Porta San Giovanni, at the southern end of town. This gate was built in 1262, and is unusual as it is topped with a guards room.
The other gate we came across was the Porta San Matteo, at the north western side of town, also dating back to 1262.
San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill-top town in Tuscany, Italy, about a 35 minute drive north-west of Siena and about the same distance southwest of Florence. It is mainly famous for its medieval architecture, especially its towers. Because of its position atop a hill the skyline can be seen for several miles outside the town.
The town is also known for the white wine grown in the area, Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Favorite thing: There is a very impressive arched passage alongside north-western part of the defense wall, starting nearby Porta San Matteo. The corridor was, obviously, used for the military purposes. Nowadays, some locals use as garage for their motorbikes.
Favorite thing: The village of San Grimignano is surrounded, even today, by the ancient walls which stretch for 2176 metres. Since 15th century the defence system was strengthened by building five cylindrical towers around the circle. The towers, which looks almost like a bastions, are very well preserved. This one is situated in a close vicinity to the Porta San Giovanni.
Volterra and San Gimignano remained bitter enemies, persevering for centuries in the struggle for territorial rule.
As the town and its economy starts to grow up, the homes of noble families were erected in the town centre, flanked by towers as a symbol of their power. At the height of the town's splendour, there were no fewer than 72 towers in it.
According to the legend, a young Roman laid the town's foundation stone. Having fled Rome, following the conspiracy by Catiline, Silvio is said to have stopped here, where he built Castello della Selva. Later on, Selva or Silva was named San Gimignano in honour of the Bishop of Modena, the town's saviour.
The town's history, however, is entirely medieval. In the 11th century the village began to grow around the castle of Bishop Abelard, known also as Monte alla torre. Right from the beginning, San Gimignano was subject to rule by the Bishops of Volterra, from which it was released at the end of the 12th century, when it gained municipal independence.
Favorite thing: This is what one can see from the far distance when approaching to San Gimignano, small townlet on the tophill and very tall towers which rip the sky above it. Amazing and almost unreal scene in the middle of the tame landscapes of Toscana. Why so many tall towers here?
In the museum there is an exhibition of archeological findings from digs in the surrounding area and especially from Ranza and Cellole. The Archeological Youth Group of San Gimigmanosupported by the Monuments and Fine Arts Service in Siena and Florence, has restored and catalogued these findings that are topographically displayed in show-cases. Besides the objects of a more common use (plates, bowls, vases, buckles and necklaces) particularly interesting are the cinerary urns (see picture) in a style similar to those in Volterra with a stretched out figure of a deceased person holding a plate containing a small offering to pay for the journey to the afterlife.
The Duomo or Collegiate Church, was consecrated in 1148 and is adorned with valuable Sienese School frescoes: "The Old and the New Testament" (Bartolo di Fredi and the "Bottega dei Memmi" or Barna da Siena); "The Last Judgement" (Taddeo di Bartolo) works of art by the Florentine school: "Stories of St. Fina" (Ghirlandaio), "St. Sebastiano" (Benozzo Gozzoli), wooden statues (Jacopo della Quercia) and the Sculptures (Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano). Frescoes, statues and sculptures make the Collegiate Church of San Gimignano a very prestigious museum.
"San Gimignano was founded on the relicts of an ancient etruscan settlement around a seventh century parish and a castle gave to the Volterra’s episcope in 929; during the XII century became a city-republic.
Its first walls were born in 998, when San Gimignano became a business centre along the Francigena Way.
The families, enriched with the commerce, ordered 72 towers to be built (but, as the law forbade, everyone could not exceed in height the Commune tower, called Rognosa).
Further to the continuous infighting between Guelfi and Ghibellini factions (in 1300 also Dante Alighieri stopped there few days as Guelfi’s league ambassador) and to the conflict with Volterra, in 1343 was subordinated to the duke of Athens and in 1353 was subdued to Florence, following later the rule of Grand Duchy of Tuscany till 1860.
The Urban structure and the numerosity of civil and religious buildings, almost intact, preserve the medievale fascination; nowdays remain only 15 of the 72 towers, unbroken or cropped, but they are enough to give an unmistakable mark to the town."
On the picture you can see the coat of arms of San Gimignano.
There are no cars allowed within the city walls, so I had to find a parking spot outside. Phew, that is not so easy! After almost driven three times around the town, I finally found a parking spot.
While strolling through San Gimignano I had a feeling that it was all so unreal. Not a real city, but more a museum. Everything was so clean and smoothly restored. It didn't have the atmosphere of a 'real' village or town. But nevertheless it was amazing to see. It was like stepping into the middle ages.
And what better to do than to take a rest, look around at all the historic buildings and towers, and take it all in. I am sitting here at the Piazza della Cisterna, looking around and being amazed by what I see. The piazza is an excellent place to sit down for a rest and take in all the beauty of San Gimignano.