Italy has a reputation for crazy drivers, particularly in places like Rome and Naples. As we were not visiting any big cities we decided to brave driving in Italy, and I am pleased to say it all went without a hitch. Though, I must admit that driving in the teaming rain on the truck-infested autostrada wasn't my idea of fun....however being able to really get off the beaten track in Tuscany was so worth it!
The drive to San Gimignano involves lots of winding roads....you may want to take a tablet if you get travel sick like I do :-/
Cars are not really allowed to drive through the centre of town, so even if your hotel is located within the city gates you will have to park outside the walls and walk. We were lucky to get a parking spot close to the main gate, at a cost of 2 euro per hour.
If you are not driving to San Gimignano, you can catch a bus to/from Florence and Siena. Some of the buses are direct, but many require a change at Poggibonsi. There are several services a day, and buses arrive/depart in San Gimignano in Piazzale dei Martiri di Montemaggio, which is just in front of Porta San Giovanni.
The easiest way to get to San Gimignano is by car. You can approach the town by the north or south.
You are not allowed to go into town with your car. You can park on one of the parking places. There is one in the north, one in the south near Porta San Giovanni and two down the hill in the south. I don't know about all the parking places but you'll need to pay for the one near Porta San Giovanni. 2 EUR per hour. There is also an automatic public toilet on the parking lot. This will cost you 25 cent.
We arrived in San Gimignano by car, as this was a daytrip. Local roads to access the village are good and well signalized.
Once in San Gimignano (outside the village’s walls) you must park your car on one of the several (paid) parking spaces available. Luckily we managed to park our car on a park which was very near to the main entrance. Later on, when we left San Gimignano the nearest parkings were full. The parks which are further from the village provide a shuttle between the park and San Gimignano.
Since most people use Florence, the areas major city, as their base for exploring Tuscany, I will provide the easiest way to get to San Gimignano.
First, you need to find the SITA bus terminal next to Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It is across the road, just look or ask around. Here you can purchase one way or return tickets for the bus. The cost is about 6€ one way. Be careful not to fall asleep on the bus!! Because you have to switch buses in Poggibonsi. When you arrive, just cross to the other side of the street where the other bus will come along and pick you up. That bus will drop you directly at the city gates! San Giovanni to be exact.
Find a space to park the vehicle, hopefully in a freee spot along the road. Otherwise you will need to park in public parking sections-there are 2 or 3-that charge. These have gate arms to stop you and pay before you leave. Our problem is the change slot did not work, and no one is around to respond. Eventually we got a person on the intercom who seemed not to care much if we got out of the lot, or not. Our Italiano saved us form having to drive through and crach the gate arm. English speaking was not an alternative
San Gimignano is only about 30 miles away from Florence on the Florence-Siena dual carriageway (2 lane road in either direction). Take care on this road as the surface is appalling! Turn off when you reach Poggibonsi Nord and then take the SP1 to San Gimignano. Park in any one of the car parks outside the town.
Travelling by car is th best way here. Busses aren't very reliable here. You will have to wait for a long time and sometimes the bus doesn't come at all :o(
This town is okay for walking. Bring along some walking shoes.
On this map you can see where San Gimignano approximately is in Italy. It is about 36 kilometers from Siena.
Going to San Gimignano coming from the north :
Take the motorway A1 Milano-Roma, direction SOUTH, Exit at 'Firenze Certosa'
Take the dual carriageway Firenze-Siena - direction Siena, Exit at 'Poggibonsi Nord'
Follow road signs for San Gimignano
Going to San Gimignano coming from the south :
Take the motorway A1 Roma-Milano - direction South
Exit at Valdichiana
Follow the road signs for Siena
At Siena take the dual carriageway - direction Firenze
Exit at 'Poggibonsi Nord'
Follow road signs for San Gimignano
If your itirenary includes Florence, then you might as well include visiting San Gimignano since it is only about 54 kilometers away from Florence. Think about just renting a car in Florence and drive early to San Gimignano and go back the same day since you can explore this medieval town in a day.
As for us, we rented a bus since we brought 29 students.
Parking is not a problem in San Gimignano. However, you have to park below the hill and walk up the hill to the town! This is the only designated parking place of the medieval town.
We were travelling by bus and just outside the old town there's a park place where visitors can leave theis cars/busses.
San Gimignano isn´t that huge and all cars are forbidden into the city center if you don´t live here. Walk around the tiny ways and streets. You will find lovely corners of the town...