San Gimignano in one day: what to see in this Unesco site
Located on a hill dominating Val d’Elsa, San Gimignano is one of the most peculiar hamlets in Tuscany, which has always kept its charm unaltered over the centuries and became a must-go destination for those seeking the authentic atmosphere of a small town that it also preserves artistic treasures from the XIV and XV centuries.
This place is included among World Heritage Sites by UNESCO thanks to the medieval architecture of the historic center that has retained unchanged, except for some restorations between XIX and XX centuries.
After looking for a Hotel in San Gimignano, we recommend to know better the history and the origins of the town to decide what to see in a day, in a weekend or during a long stay here.
San Gimignano, in fact, is a must for every tourist who wants to visit the most beautiful places in Tuscany, maybe even savoring the excellent local delicacies, such as the Vernacular, a typical local wine appreciated all over the world.
The attractions of San Gimignano
First of all, you should know why this hamlet is nicknamed “the Medieval Manhattan “: the reference is to the towers that were built around the XIII century and that dot the surrounding landscape.
Once there were 72 towers, then there were 25 in 1580 and today there are 14: the skyline of San Gimignano is defined by these towers, the distinctive trait of this hamlet, compared to others in Tuscany.
The oldest tower, among those left, is the Torre Rognosa, 52 meters high, its name “rognosa”, is related to its origins, because, for a period, it was used as a prison (in Italian, it even means “get into trouble with justice”.
It is also called Torre del Podestà or Torre dell’Orologio and is located in Piazza del Duomo.
The tallest tower, however, is the Torre Grossa, 54 meters, next to the new Palazzo del Podestà, built in 1311 by the Ardinghelli family and can now you can visit with the same entrance ticket of the Museo Civico.
About this museum, located between the Torre Grossa and the Loggia del Comune, here are preserved important works of art made between XIII and XVI centuries by artists such as Coppo di Marcovaldo, Lippo Memmi, Benozzo Gozzoli, Filippino Lippi, Sodoma, Pinturicchio and Azzo di Masetto.
To continue the itinerary in the historic center, we suggest you to visit the Collegiate Church (or Duomo), located on top of a staircase in Piazza del Duomo, is a Romanesque church that has all the walls and vaults covered with frescoes made by various artists and mainly by Lippo Memmi and Bartolo di Fredi.
Every traveler who arrives for the first time in San Gimignano looks for the ideal spot where to take a photo of the towers and bring with him a memory of this unique hamlet: moving away from the center, towards Porta alle Fonti, along the road leading to the ancient Medieval Sources (ancient water basins supported by ten stone arches), you can easily admire and photograph the picturesque landscape of the town.
Not everyone knows the museum that reproduces the entire town in miniature: it’s San Gimignano 1300 (www.sangimignano1300.com), where a ceramic reproduction of the hamlet is exhibited exactly as it was in 1300, created by the artists Michelangelo and Raffaello Rubino. The visit of the museum allows you to closely see the appearance of the city of towers in the Middle Ages.
Tasting the Vernaccia, DOCG white wine
If you love exclusiveness, you should taste Vernaccia di San Gimignano wine, as it is a white wine produced only in this area and was the first to receive the DOC label in 1966, then the DOCG in 1993. It is a light straw-colored wine with a fine and fruity smell, with a dry taste and a very characteristic aftertaste (bitter almond).
We suggest to taste it as an aperitif or paired with pasta dishes, fish, eggs and white meats. For further information about Vernaccia, check the official website of the Consortium: www.vernaccia.it.
The Medieval Manhattan, in province of Siena, is a destination full of points of interest and recommended throughout the year.
However, if you are on holiday in the first weekend of December, we recommend the event San Gimignano Lumière, a festival focused on light art installations, animations, video mapping, laser shows and light painting screened on the most beautiful palaces of the town. One more reason to explore the alleys and squares of a place full of romantic glimpses.