San Gimignano: the town that towers over the Tuscan countryside


posted by on History & Culture

San Gimignano, Siena - Tuscany

Situated in the unspoilt Tuscan countryside and overlooking the Elsa Valley at no less than 334 metres high, is the medieval town of San Gimignano, (yes, it is rather tricky to pronounce!) with its famous ‘belle Torri’ or ‘beautiful towers’. Built between the 11th and 14th centuries, the towers were used to watch out for any approaching enemy. As these towers began to spring up, everyone wanted in on the act and of course, to have the highest tower. Although only 14 towers now remain, they undoubtedly create an air of dominance among the surroundings. However, if looking at medieval towers (however impressive they may be) isn’t really your cup of tea, there’s plenty more to keep you occupied.

The town of San Gimignano town was once an important relay point for pilgrims and developed into a prosperous settlement, producing specialities such as saffron. Beautiful works of art began to adorn the churches and other buildings, and you can still see them today, in all their glory. In the historic centre of San Gimignano there are several masterpieces of the14th and 15th centuries, so a visit to this town is a must for any of you art lovers.

Among the churches, palaces and fountains (it just sounds so lovely doesn’t it?) you will come across two principal squares, the Piazza della Cisterna and of course, the Piazza del Duomo with its stunning cathedral. Don’t be fooled by the cathedral’s simple exterior- once you get inside, you can experience the amazing and incredibly vivid frescoes. After you have been sufficiently impressed by the museums and churches, and have got used to just how beautiful the architecture- inspired by the cities of Florence, Pisa and Siena- really is, you must sample the wonderful Tuscan food and of course, let’s not forget the wine. Try the crisp, white Vernaccia which is local to this region. For a small town, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, or you can purchase some tasty snacks to go with your wine and have a relaxing picnic.

Being in San Gimignano almost makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This town is just jam packed with history and is a real architectural wonder. So much so, that in 1990 it was declared to be part of the World’s Architectural Heritage by UNESCO. Now if that isn’t an incentive to visit this town of the beautiful towers and, of course, beautiful wine, what is?

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