There are very few places that live up to the picture postcard perfection. However, San Gimignano delle Belle Torre (of the Fine Towers), is one of them.
Why Visit San Gimignano in Tuscany?
Tuscany isn’t short of beauty spots or panoramic views. From Piazzale Michelangelo, which overlooks the city of Florence, to sweeping views across the vineyards in Chianti, a visit to San Gimignano arguably offers some of the best.
Situated on a hill, just 48km from Siena and 56km from Florence, this medieval town is easy to find but hard to forget. From afar, it is possible to see the 14 towers from which the town takes its name and beyond a short drive across the Tuscan landscape, visitors can take a closer look. Parts of the town date back to the early 11th century and it is now famed for its vast range of hand painted Italian ceramics. The main street, Via San Giovanni is lined with quaint, but seemingly endless, shops filled with handmade porcelain jars, plates, vases and garden furniture. Shipped for tourists around the world, very few visitors leave empty handed.
Amongst the show rooms are a number of shops selling linens and local produce such as proscuitto di cinghiale (wild boar), olive oil and Vernaccia, one of Italy’s finest and most popular white wines.
The Main Sights in San Gimignano
Believed to have been founded by Etruscans, 76 towers originally stood on this hilltop town. Today, only 14 of those remain. A World Heritage Sight, the main area San Gimignano is now pedestrianized and it is only possible to explore many of its sights on foot. In summer months, it is teeming with tourists making their way through the narrow winding streets. During high season, it is better to visit in the morning.
To escape the crowds, there are a number of museums across the town including the Museo d’Arte Sacra, Museo della Tortura and the Museo Civico. With paintings from the 12th-15th century by artists such as Lippi and nPinturicchio, the Museo Civico, located on the first floor of the Piazza del Popola is, perhaps, the most popular.
For the most breathtaking views, climb up the Torre Grossa. At 54m high, it is the tallest tower in San Gimignano. To simply enjoy the town from a lower level, head to Piazza della Cisterna and the Piazza del Duomo. Both are stunning piazzas with interesting architecture and buildings nearby. From the Piazza del Duomo, an abundance of magnificent frescoes can be found in the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta. The Piazza della Cisterna was the setting for a number of films, including Tea with Mussolini.
In addition to the numerous bars and cafes here, San Gimignano is also home to the World Champion Ice Cream Maker, Sergio Dondoli . His ice cream parlour is located on Piazza della Cisterna.