San Gimignano – The Village on the Hill

A small medieval town on a hill in the province of Siena, the city is surrounded by walls and it has been classified as the UNESCO world heritage site. More than three million people visit the town every year. So if you have the option it would be better to either stay there in one of their glorious Tuscany villas or go late in the afternoon as the town gets swamped with hundreds of coaches. The hill town over looks the valley of the River Elsa.

San Gimignano was founded by the Etruscan settlement around the 3rd century and it was from the 7th century when the city rose when it got the name of the bishop of Modena Saint Geminianus, who had defended it from Attila’s Huns.

During the Renaissance era it became a way point for Catholic pilgrims when they were on their way to and from Rome and the Vatican as it sits on the medieval Via Francigena. The city’s development was helped by the trade in agricultural products from the fertile neighbouring hills. The walls were put up in at the end of the 10th century, which helped it become a business centre along Francigena way.

One of the main attractions of the town is the towers, which unlike some of the bigger cities like Bologna and Florence who have had all of their towers brought down due to wars and other things like natural disasters or Renovations, have managed to preserve fourteen towers which vary in height, are an international symbol. Originally there was 72 towers that were built the only condition on them was that they were not allowed to be taller than the Commune tower Rognosa.

In the centre of the city is the museum SanGimignano1300, which has a massive reconstruction of the city as it looked 700 years ago. This was an exhibition that Architects, historians, and many  artists dedicated 3 years to work on and complete. It features 800 meticulously hand-crafted structures, 72 towers, street scenes and figurines.

This was the birthplace of a famous Italian Poet Folgóre da San Gimignano, and the city has been replicated in the video game Assassin’s Creed II, representing the 15th century side of the town. This is a fantastic place where you can find some of the Tuscany villas.  

This is a town known for its wine that it produces,  Vernaccia di San Gimignano. This has been considered one of the countries finest white wine from the Renaissance, and was the first Italian wine to be awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). This happened in 1966 on July 9th but it was in 1993 it was upgraded to Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).

Of course there will be traditional Siennese sweets to sample, like Panforte and Ricciarelli, but the town has its own called Pinolata which which is made with cream custard and pine nuts. A lot of dishes that come from this town are made from mushrooms. This is a great town to go to as you will be able to sample some of Tuscany’s cultured side.

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Gioiello di urbanistica medioevale,San Gimignano occupa il crinale di un colle che domina la Valdelsa.Ottobre 2008.
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