Visit San Gimignano and its high medieval towers

San Gimignano et ses maisons-tours en Toscane, Italie

What to see and do in San Gimignano delle belle Torri, one of the treasures of Tuscany and Italy?

San Gimignano is a small medieval town in Italy’s famous Tuscany region, 56 km south of Florence. Situated on a hilltop and fortified with walls and towers, the town has an unforgettable skyline that resembles a  » mini-Manhattan of the medieval era« . Originally an Etruscan village, San Gimignano was under the jurisdiction of the bishops of Volterra, when it became independent in 1199 and acquired its first podestate. The town immediately set about enriching the commune with churches and public buildings, entering a long period of prosperity that lasted until 1353, when it fell under the domination of Florence.

San Gimignano et ses maisons-tours en Toscane, Italie

Flickr – Antonio Cinotti

During this period, the town was controlled by two great rival families, the Ardinghelli and the Salvucci, who fought over who would build the tallest tower-house. Owning a tower was a symbol of wealth and power. Over the decades, the number of towers rose steadily, lifting the city high into the sky. By the end of the 14th century, the city boasted no fewer than 72 towers, some over 50 meters high. Tower construction finally came to a halt when the town council ordered that no tower should be taller than the one adjacent to the Palazzo Comunale.

San Gimignano et ses maisons-tours en Toscane, Italie

Flickr – gengish skan

Of these 72 towers, only 14 have managed to withstand wars, disasters and urban development, including the Cugnanesi house on the ancient Via Francigena, the Pesciolini house on Via San Matteo, and the Palazzo Franzesi-Ceccarelli on via del Castello.

The city prospered until 1348, when it was hit by the Black Death, which affected the whole of Europe, and around half the townspeople died. Weakened by the plague, the city submitted to the authority of Florence. Initially, a few Gothic palaces were built in the Florentine style, and most of the towers were reduced to the height of the houses. There was little subsequent development, and San Gimignano remained preserved in its medieval state until the 19th century, when its status as a tourist and artistic site began to be recognized.

San Gimignano et ses maisons-tours en Toscane, Italie

Flickr – Chris Wee

What to see and do in San Gimignano

San Gimignano has just 8,000 inhabitants and can be visited in an afternoon. The historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is its main tourist attraction. Here’s what you can visit:

  • The 14 tower-houses, of course
  • The Romanesque-Gothicchurch ofSant’Agostino
  • The palaces of Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza del Duomo
  • La collégiale de San Gimignano
  • L’Église San Jacopo al Tempio
  • Le musée SanGimignano1300
  • Le complexe de la Spedale di Santa Fina
San Gimignano et ses maisons-tours en Toscane, Italie

Flickr – Kevin Poh

San Gimignano et ses maisons-tours en Toscane, Italie

Flickr – Andrés Nieto Porras

San Gimignano et ses maisons-tours en Toscane, Italie

Flickr – Marco Lazzaroni

San Gimignano et ses maisons-tours en Toscane, Italie

Flickr – Antonio Cinotti

Have you visited the medieval village of San Gimignano in Tuscany?