San Gimignano, Italy: Visit the City of Towers!
San Gimignano in Italy is a real highlight on any trip to Tuscany. Known as the “Medieval Manhattan” or also as “The City of Towers”, the old town with its medieval skyline fascinates all its visitors. A visit takes you back in time by drifting through the picturesque stone alleys, marveling at historical attractions and enjoying the unique viewpoints from the high towers of the city. If you like, you can try the possibly best ice cream in the world or taste the delicious wines of the Chianti region. However, not only the center is beautiful, also the surrounding of San Gimignano with its countless wineries and excursion destinations is worth seeing!
In this travel guide we will provide you with all the important information of San Gimignano in Italy so that you can enjoy a perfect stay. We also show you the best things that should not be missed on your to-do list. We include wonderful pictures and reveal our insider tips.
General information about San Gimignano
San Gimignano is located in the province of Siena and is a small town in Tuscany with about 8,000 inhabitants. Since 1990, the historic center has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list and is now one of the most important places to visit in the entire region. The hilltop location is also unique, thanks to which one can enjoy picturesque views of the green vineyards and the Mediterranean landscape.
The history of this town dates back to 300 B.C. At that time, San Gimignano had already been inhabited by the Etruscans. The time of the Middle Ages (11th to 13th century), when the famous towers of San Gimignano were built, was the heyday of this region. Once there were 72 of these medieval patrician family houses. Today, 15 of them can still be admired and some of these towers can even be climbed. It is, above all, the large number of the still well-preserved towers that makes San Gimignano so special and unique in Italy.
Things to do in San Gimignano
During a vacation in San Gimignano you can expect a huge range of things to see and find diverse activities. Among the main attractions of the old town are the high towers, but also the many romantic squares, the interesting museums and galleries. And there is also a lot to discover in the area around!
Piazza della Cisterna
One of the most important monuments of San Gimignano is the Piazza della Cisterna, the Cistern Square. It owes its name to the underground cisterns that were built as early as 1287. Particularly beautiful here are the ancient historic town houses, which are home to many cozy cafés, ice cream parlors and small stores nowadays. The highlight and probably one of the most popular photo spots on this triangular square is the beautiful medieval stone fountain.
Tip: Every Thursday, the big weekly market of San Gimignano takes place at Piezza della Cisterna. This market starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 13:00 p.m.
Piazza del Duomo
Another lovely attraction in San Gimignano is the Piazza del Duoma, which is just near the famous Piazze della Cisterna. Around the Duomo square there are many other interesting attractions such as Torre Grossa – the highest tower in the city, the Town Hall and the Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta. Especially the medieval ambience with the historic aristocratic houses and the high towers radiate a unique flair, which can be best enjoyed from the large staircase of the church.
Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta
The Duomo of San Gimignano, also known as Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, is a Roman Catholic collegiate church and, at the same time, one of the most interesting places to visit in San Gimignano. First and foremost, this church is famous for the fantastic mural paintings, the many frescoes and paintings inside. Works by artists such as Taddeo di Bartolo, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Lippo Memmi decorate this church and make it a must-see for all art lovers!
Tip: At the ticket office you can also buy combined tickets, which allow you to visit the large tower, the Civici Museum and the church at a reasonable price.
The Towers of San Gimignano
The towers of San Gimignano are the ultimate landmark and therefore the highlight of this historic city. Since a luxurious life was not yet possible in the Middle Ages, patrician families tried to prove themselves with the height of their towers as status symbols. Today, there are still 15 of the 72 towers inside the old town. The most important is the Great Tower of San Gimignano. The so-called 54-meter high Torre Grossa can even be climbed and all those who manage the approximately 220 steps are rewarded with one of the best viewpoints in the city. From the top you can enjoy a wonderful view of the green landscape of Tuscany, but also of the beautiful medieval old town.
The alleys of the old town
The car-free center of San Gimignano is not too big and can therefore be explored comfortably on a city walk. Surrounded by a well-preserved city wall, 5 gates provide access to the old town. The best way to get around the city center is to let yourself drift and explore the pretty alleys just by walking around. Small delicatessen stores with regional delicacies, cozy cafés, wine bars and restaurants invite to take a break. In between you will discover small galleries and also the SanGimignano 1300 Museum is worth a visit.
Ice cream lovers will also get their money’s worth in San Gimignano, because here you will find one of the best ice cream parlors in Italy: the award-winning Gelateria Dondoli on the main square, Piazza della Cisterna. Already several times awarded as ice cream world champion, a tasting of the delicious ice cream creations is one of the best things to do in San Gimignano. In addition to the typical old-fashioned varieties, there are also some unusual flavors, such as walnut & gorgonzola, raspberry & rosemary or cappuccino & rum. The queue is usually long, but it’s worth waiting!
Culture lovers will be in their element in the many museums of San Gimignano. The Museo Civico is definitely worth a visit. It is located directly under the Torre Grossa and contains works of art from the Middle Ages, from the 13th to the 15th century. Also worth seeing is the facade of the staircase, which used to be to announce new laws. In the upper part of the museum there is a picture gallery, which exhibits works of the Sienese and Florentine school.
Tip: This museum is also included in the San Gimignano Card.
Torre e Casa Campatelli Museum
A real insider tip for San Gimignano is a visit to the Campatelli Museum. Here you can see the luxurious living rooms of the last Campatelli family and marvel at beautiful furniture and paintings from the 19th century. The tower itself is from the 12th century and is about 28 meters high. Although it is no longer possible to climb it, the museum offers a view into the interior of this medieval Tower.
Tip: The entrance fee also includes a magnificent multimedia show. You will learn a lot of interesting things about the history of the town and Tuscany.
Church of San Lorenzo al Ponte
In San Gimignano there are numerous churches and monasteries. A small hidden highlight is the church San Lorenzo al Ponte, built in 1240. Particularly interesting is the interior, where you can admire frescoes by the artist Cenni di Francesco di ser Cenni.
Parco della Rocca (Viewpoint)
Beautiful and another fascinating attraction in San Gimignano are the Montestaffoli ruins in the Parco della Rocca. This is a public park in the west of the town, situated on a hill. Don’t miss to check out the Vista Panoramica viewpoint, wherefrom you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city towers on one side and a fantastic view of the fabulous Tuscan countryside and vineyards on the other.
Tip: Right in front of the entrance is the Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a lovely wine-bar with a cozy terrace, which offers a fine selection of Vernaccia wines to taste.
Arround San Gimignano
On a visit to San Gimignano you also have the opportunity to explore the beautiful Mediterranean environment with its beautiful vineyards. A hiking trail leads around the village and offers picturesque views of the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages”. This panoramic route leads 9 kilometers around the city and is the best option to admire the beautiful landscape of the surrounding area.
Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta a Cellole
Just outside the city, in a beautiful location on a hill overlooking Tuscany, is the romantic church Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta a Cellole. This three-nave basilica was first mentioned in a document in 1109 and then consecrated in 1238. A small monastery and a picturesque cypress garden also belong to the complex.
Excursions from San Gimignano
From San Gimignano you can go on various exciting excursions and day trips. That’s why it is so worthwhile to stay a few days in this region! The following attractions are really worth seeing and can be easily reached from San Gimignano:
Only 30 kilometers from San Gimignano is the picturesque medieval town of Volterra, another highlight of Tuscany.
We also recommend a trip to Colle di Val d’Elsa (28 km), where the “Sentierelsa – Trail” along the cobalt blue river is a must-do.
Also the famous city of Florence is not far away and can be visited during a day trip.
Best Places to Stay in San Gimignano
San Gimignano offers its visitors a wide range of fabulous accommodations. From well-kept wineries to agritourist apartments and camping sites with pool, everything can be found. Here are our recommendations for the most beautiful accommodations in San Gimignano…It’s worth a look!
- Agriturismo with swimming pool: The Agriturismo Mormoraia enchants with an incredibly beautiful location in the middle of the vineyards with a view of San Gimignano.
- Castle: The Castello di Fulignano is a beautiful castle with apartments, a huge pool and a wonderful panoramic view over the hills of Tuscany.
- Apartment: The Appartamento AVA nell’antica dimora di Fulignano offers beautiful apartments in a brilliant position overlooking San Gimignano; quiet yet central for excursions!
- Pension: The Casa Torre Margherita is a real insider tip in the heart of the old town of San Gimignano. Here, a great location and a delicious breakfast await you.
Find the best Accommodation in San Gimignano:
More Highlights in Tuscany:
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. Meaning that if you click on certain links, and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.