10 Things To Do in San Gimignano
To experience pure Tuscan charm, head to the gorgeous medical walled town of Italy, called San Gimignano. Here you will discover the historic architecture of northern Italy, while enjoying some of the region’s best white wine.
San Gimignano, known as the “city of beautiful towers,” had 72 towers at one point, but now only 14 remain. They rise above Tuscany’s Elsa Valley, and make the town look like a medieval dreamscape. Take in the fresco-covered Collegiate Church, the Civic Museum and the views from atop 177-foot Torre Grossa. Daytrippers from Florence tend to fill up the streets during the day, so for a more up-close-and-personal look at the town, spend the night. Sadly we were not among the latter so we did not see San Gimignano in all of it’s glory, but if we ever end up in northern Italy again, we will be spending a couple of night here. For those like us, who only have about a day worth of explorations, here are our top 10 recommendations on things to do and see in San Gimignano.
1. Wander the Piazza della Cisterna
The Piazza della Cisterna is a triangular shaped courtyard, connected to the nearby Piazza del Duomo by an open passage. The pavement is brick and the piazza is surrounded by houses and medieval towers. Walk this area, or stop and sit down to enjoy a coffee while people watching and admiring the towers and buildings that surround you. This is a great place to enjoy the bustle of San Gimignano area.
2. Cool off with gelato
The world-famous Gelateria di Piazza is right in the center of Piazza della Cisterna, and has a variety of creative flavors like saffron or pink grapefruit with sparkling wine. You’ll easily recognize it because there is always a line out the door.
3. Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta
Sit on the steps of this Roman Catholic church, situated in the Piazza del Duomo at the heart of San Gimignano. The church is famous for its fresco cycles and enjoys the ranking of a Minor Basilica. The impressive interiors feature many frescos you don’t want to miss.
4. Enjoy sweeping views of the Tuscan hills
Due to it’s location on a hill, the town of San Gimignano is a great place to stop and admire not only the town itself, but the views of the Tuscan hills that surround it. When we arrived it was raining and visibility was poor, but after a couple of hours the skies cleared and the views were pretty.
5. Window Shop
There are numerous beautiful boutique stores lining the alleys of San Gimignano. In fact, these stores are built right into those walls, and once inside them you will find all kinds of tempting specialty food and wine. If you want to buy leather products, these can be found here for a much lower price than in Florence.
6. Admire the views from La Rocca di Montestaffoli
From Piazza del Duomo, crossing Pazza delle Erbe on the right side of the church, you can climb towards Rocca di Montestaffoli. Originally a castle, this fortress was built by the Florentines in 1353 when the town submitted to Florence to protect it from possible attacks by Siena or from internal riots that may arise inside the town itself.
This area offers breathtaking views of the historical centre with its unique towers and surrounding countryside. Lovely olive groves provide some shade and a great place to enjoy a picnic while taking in the views of the rolling Tuscan hills and the towers rising from the town center. There is also a Wine Museum here, where you can learn more about Tuscany’s best known white wines (Museo del Vino).
7. Buy wild boar salami
Gourmet shops all throughout San Gimignano sell local wild boar sausage. From the moment that we arrived, it was fact became evident by all of the small deli’s which line the main streets of this town. The salami is thinly sliced and served on a crusty baguette drizzled with olive oil. We highly suggest grabbing a salami baguette and a bottle of wine and head up to La Rocca for a picnic lunch.
8 . Wander around Piazza del Duomo
The Piazza del Duomo is a city square in San Gimignano. It is in this square that you will find the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta (listed as #3 above). Remember to look up! The towers are captivating that surround this city square are captivating.
9. Enjoy a Porchetta Sandwich
“Porchétta is roasted pork with crispy skin, highly seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary and wild fennel pollen. This is a traditional street food of Central Italy – it is basically slow cooked Italian fast food. Sold from a cart or a truck, it is a whole roast pig boned out and stuffed with the liver, heart and other entrails mixed with savory herbs then slow roasted in a wood oven. It is sliced to order and served in a sandwich as a quick treat at the market or at a fair. As soon as we arrived in San Gimignano, and saw people eating these… we had to get in line. We also wanted a porchetta sanwich!”
~Take from a recent post: “The Porchetta Sandwich We Counted Coins For”
9. Get Lost!
This one applies to all Italian cities and small towns, but especially so when they are filled with such an inherent Italian charm. We loved walking along the alleys of San Gimignano. Some of them were so quiet and deserted that we felt like we were all alone in that town. Another reason to definitely check out this town during the off-peak months of the year.
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Since the town of San Gimignano is town is best explored on foot. There is also an electric shuttle bus and taxis. Getting into the city from other parts of Tuscany is best done by bus.
Best time to visit?