San Gimignano's Palazzo Comunale (town hall) was founded in the 13th century, and sits looking over Piazza del Duomo, next to the Collegiata.
This medieval palace is home to the Museo Civico and the Pinacoteca, which house some interesting works by local artists and help you gain an understanding of the history of the town and surrounding area.
Also found in the Palazzo Comunale is the Torre Grossa (Big Tower). This is the tallest tower still standing in San Gimignano. You can climb to the top (it is only about 60 metres tall) and enjoy the stunning views over the town and valley.
The cost to visit the museum and climb the tower was 5 euro (Sep 2006) and was well worth it as the views from the top of the tower was the highlight of our visit to San Gimignano.
Also known as Palazzo Nuova del Podestà, il Palazzo Comunale has been the seat of the government of San Gimignano since it was built in 1288. Prior to its construction, the seat of the government was at the nearby Palazzo Vecchio del Podestà (vecchio = old, nuovo = new). In 1323, the building was expanded, probably with the construction of the upper half, which may explain the split between the stone lower half and the red brick upper half. Nowadays, the building serves as a museum, il Museo Civico, with important works of art. On one side of the Palazzo Comunale is the Loggia del Comune and on the other is the Torre Grossa, the highest tower in San Gimignano.
The principal museum is the combined attraction of the Palazzo Comunale, Pinacoteca and Torre Grossa - Town Hall, Art Gallery and Great Tower (€5 admission charge, or €7.50 combined with the town's other museums). In Piazza del Duomo, this historic building houses a few interesting paintings, including some rather fun frescoes of knights jousting and Charles of Anjou chatting to his falconers. The most impressive experience, though, is provided by the tower, unobtrusively signposted off a museum stairway. The tallest tower in town at 54m, it has been gutted inside, and the stairs are a modern structure. Visitors should note that it's a stiff climb, and the very top section involves clambering up a ladder (mind your head at the top – you have to duck under the framework surrounding a monster bell). The views are splendid in every direction: lovely Tuscan hills, dotted with villages, villas and groves of trees.