Tuscany: the city of San Gimignano and its medieval towers.
Coordinates / 43°28'05.0"N 11°02'28.0"E
Country / Italy
Region / Tuscany
Population / 7 105
It is the second summer in a row that we have returned to attend the annual concert “Teatro del Silenzio” in Lajatico, which was founded by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, as well as to get acquainted with new cities, gastronomic and cultural features of the region. To find out more about last years’ experience click here.
So let’s hit the road for a new exciting journey through the countryside of Italy, where music, poetry and Sangiovese grapes co-exist.
Traditionally, we only have a long weekend to get acquainted with another facet of Tuscany. The first morning found us 39 km south-east of Florence, in the medieval town of San Gimignano. This ancient city is known worldwide primarily for its fourteen stone towers, the so-called "medieval skyscrapers", where outstretched rectangular pillars rise above the horizon creating an unusual and unforgettable image. These fourteen towers clearly identify the town of San Gimignano. This picturesque village is situated on a green hill surrounded by olive trees and vineyards.
These stone towers along with city’s other fortifications were built here in the 13th century. Originally founded by the Etruscans 10 centuries ago the small village became a thriving city, located at the intersection of the strategic trade routes of the time, these routes were referred to as Franks path.
It was a great honour for respected noble families to build a stone “skyscraper” giving each tower the family name. Thus, in San Gimignano, about seventy of these towers were built. Unfortunately, only 14 have survived.
As was customary, the lives of all medieval towns were centred around the bustling urban areas.
There were two such areas in San Gimignano.
Firstly, Piazza della Cisterna, nowadays, there are shops and cafes along the central part of the street and one ancient well which saved the city population from thirst hundreds of years ago.
The second area is located in the Piazza del Duomo, where the Old Palace as well as Palazzo del Popolo, and ancient towers stand. Here the city hall (municipality) is adjacent to the Art Gallery.
For those who do not plan to visit the art gallery, it may be interesting just to go into its courtyard, staring at the historical murals with the coats of arms of the city mayors and judges on the outer walls of the building, which is quite interesting in itself.
On a hot summer morning, the shady streets of San Gimignano creates a little bit of freshness, so it is very convenient to take an unhurried walk along its street.
In addition, a large number of shops with all kinds of local foods such as sausages, cheese, sauces, butter, wine, bread and pasta are opening their doors to their visitors, therefore leaving without a gastronomic buy is really quite impossible.
Special items for shoppers are ceramics from Tuscany. A variety of products made in the form of kitchen tools and decorative elements in bright rich colours mean that any prospective buyer will be spoiled for choice.
However, despite the fact that San Gimignano is flooded with cosy and inviting ceramic workshops, the production of these ceramics takes place 40 km away, in the town of Montelupo Fiorentino.
The next city scheduled for our day’s tour was the long-standing rival of Florence – Siena city, click here.