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Although its history dates to a 3rd-century BC Etruscan settlement, this Tuscan hill town’s glory days were in the 12th to 14th centuries, when it was a popular stopping point for pilgrims following the medieval Via Francigena on their way to Rome. While its churches and public buildings were embellished with art that remains today, San Gimignano is best known for the 14 medieval towers that remain from the original 72 that once crowned its hilltop. By contrast, Florence has managed to save only a handful of its towers and most cities have only one or two, if any. For an idea of what the city looked like, visit the museum SanGimignano1300 to ...

Although its history dates to a 3rd-century BC Etruscan settlement, this Tuscan hill town’s glory days were in the 12th to 14th centuries, when it was a popular stopping point for pilgrims following the medieval Via Francigena on their way to Rome. While its churches and public buildings were embellished with art that remains today, San Gimignano is best known for the 14 medieval towers that remain from the original 72 that once crowned its hilltop. By contrast, Florence has managed to save only a handful of its towers and most cities have only one or two, if any. For an idea of what the city looked like, visit the museum SanGimignano1300 to admire the immense reconstruction of the medieval city. Historians, architects and artists in various media have created a miniature city composed of 800 handcrafted structures that include all 72 towers, along with street scenes populated by tiny figures. For a tour of the same streets today, follow Via San Giovanni past the arcaded façade of San Francesco Church, the Gothic brick Pratellesi Palace, Cugnanesi tower, Becci’s arch and tower and into the three-sided Piazza della Cisterna. Several of the town’s most impressive palaces surround the piazza. More palaces and towers surround Piazza del Duomo, where the 12th-century Church of Santa Maria Assunta is embellished by paintings by Sienese and Florentine artists.

Stillman Rogers
About the Expert

Stillman Rogers has written more than two dozen guidebooks, including Adventure Guide to Canada's Atlantic Provinces, Guide to Eastern Canada, and Adventure Guide to the Chesapeake.

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring, or fall when the surrounding farms and vineyards are busy with the harvest. Summer can be quite hot.