Sights in San Gimignano
This is the poster child for Tuscany and the epitome of a medieval Italian hilltop town. It gets the nickname "Medieval Manhattan" from the skyline of 14 towers. It takes its official name from the Bishop of Modena who died here in 387. By the 13th century the town had 72 towers and was home to many families whose fortunes grew from the fabric trade. The height of a family's tower was the sign of their wealth, and also served as a way to display their fabrics when unfurled from the top. In 1348 a plague devastated the town and ultimately lead to its decline and submission to Florence. Today the population is about 7,000.
Top Sights in San Gimignano
Palazzo del Popolo (The People's Palace)
This palace dates back to the 13th Century. In the courtyard you will find coats of arms and frescoes by Sodoma. Inside the palace is the Museo Civico (Civic Museum) featuring 12th Century Florentine and Sienese art and decorative objects. Our favorite is the altar piece by Taddeo di Bartolo. It shows the patron Saint Gimignano holding the town in his hands. Climb to the top of the Torre Grossa (Great Tower), dating from 1311. This 160 foot tower gives you wonderful views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
The Duomo or Basilica of Santa Maria
This church, consecrated in 1148, is frescoed with scenes depicting the Old and New Testament, and a noteworthy Last Judgment. They are truly beautiful and well worth a visit.
Piazza della Cisterna (built in 1327) and Piazza del Duomo
San Gimignano boasts two beautiful town squares, one just around the corner from the other, that are filled with cafes, shops, churches and the bustle of Italian life. On Wednesday mornings they are both converted to an open air market. Time your visit so that after you have explored it, you can sit in an outdoor cafe and marvel at how the vendors fold up and squeeze their mobile stalls out of town through the ancient narrow streets.
Rocca di Montestaffoli
This now ruined castle was built on the highest natural point in town in 1353. We recommend that you explore the natural gardens, terraces, and look out points during the day, and then return to the look outs after sundown to bask in the romance of a glowing moon set amid a blanket of stars.
Depending on when you visit, this town can be swarmed by tourists. So if you need a break from the mob take a stroll around the outside of the 13th Century wall. This walk / hike is about 2 miles long and some of it is shaded. Make the short detour down to see the medieval fountains (Fonti Medievali) before returning to the city.
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