San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena. It is mainly famous for its medieval architecture, especially its towers, which may be seen from several kilometres outside the town. San Gimignano is also known for its white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, the favourite wine of Michelangelo. As Michelangelo said of Vernaccia di San Gimignano in 1643, “ …it kisses, licks, bites, pinches and stings…”. Judge for yourself, the wine can be bought everywhere. San Gimignano is one of Italy’s best conserved medieval towns.
Once the seat of a small Etruscan village in the Hellenistic period (3rd century BC) it began its life as a town in the 10th century, taking its name from the Holy Bishop of Modena, St. Gimignano, who is said to have saved the village from the barbarian hordes. The town increased in wealth and developed greatly during the Middle Ages thanks to the Via Francigena the trading and pilgrim’s route that crossed it. The town flourished until 1348, when the plague compelled it to submit to Florence. San Gimignano became a secondary centre until the nineteenth century, when its status as a tourist and artistic resort began to be recognized.
The construction of the towers dates back to the 11th and 13th centuries. While in other cities, such as Bologna and Florence, most of their towers have been brought down due to wars, catastrophes, or urban renewal, San Gimignano has managed to conserve fourteen towers of varying height which have become its international symbol.
There are many churches in San Gimignano: the main one is The Duomo or Collegiate Church, which was consecrated in 1148 and adorned with valuable Sienese School frescoes. The heart of the town contains the four squares, Piazza della Cisterna, Piazza Duomo where the Collegiata is located, Piazza Pecori, and Piazza delle Erbe. The main streets are Via San Matteo and Via San Giovanni, which cross the city from north to south.