San Gimignano

San Gimignano: discover this medieval ‘Town of Towers’ in Tuscany, with a colorful past and extremely well-preserved architecture.

This small medieval town of San Gimignano lies Florence and Siena in the north-central region of Tuscany. Its history is long and eventful, with a known civilisation already inhabiting the area in the 3rd Century BC.

The town we know today, however, started a several centuries later. During the beginnings of a conspiracy against the Roman Republic, two men, Muzio and Silvio, fled to this area and built two castles. After a bishop saved one from destruction at the hands of Attila the Hun followers, the castle’s name changed to San Gimignano in his honor.

Slowly but surely, a village started to grow up around the castle. By the Middle Ages this city had become a popular stopping place for pilgrims on the Via Francigena. This continued throughout the Renaissance era.

Unfortunately, the town proceeded to find itself in the crossfire of the Guelph-Ghibelline conflict. This, however, wasn’t the only conflict that pulled San Gimignano in.

Throughout this time, the noble families of the town became extremely competitive. As a result, families commissioned many towers, each trying to outdo the last in terms of height. This is where the town’s nickname, ‘Town of Towers’ comes from. At its peak, San Gimignano had 72 of such buildings, though today only 14 remain.

It wasn’t until the 19th Century that San Gimignano became a tourist attraction, meaning much of its medieval architecture is still in tact.

One of the town’s most famous exports is its saffron. Used for both cooking and dyeing cloths, this is also the unique ingredient in San Gimignano’s Vernaccia wine. Make sure you don’t miss out on a glass of the latter, given that it is so good it is said to inspire popes and poets.

San Gimignano is easy to reach from Tuscany’s main cities such as Siena, Florence and Pisa. From these you can get bus transfers. Alternatively you can take the train to Poggibonsi, from which you can take a shorter, 30-minute bus.