Today we want to present you the top attractions in San Gimignano, Tuscany. Would you like to discover a charming medieval town in the middle of the colored countryside, surrounded by vineyards? A place where food and wines are likely to be the best in the world? Where the time seems to have stopped 800 years ago?
All the secrets of San Gimignano: make the most of your time there
We visited this fascinating town at the end of September 2016, as a part of a trip in Tuscany. The weather was unpleasant and we were worried about what we would do there. You know, those days when it’s raining all the time. But, as always, the rain didn’t stop our travel hysteria :). So we parked the car, we walked through the City’s door and we simply fell in love with San Gimignano. Here is why.
Tuscany is one of the most beautiful regions of Italy, and it has some of the most enchanting towns and cities in the country. The locals are friendly and open-minded, and the prices are not crazy high even in the touristic places. Moreover, you need just one day trip to see San Gimignano and its beauties: If you have more time, you will enjoy the surroundings.
We’re gonna give you everything you need to know about this town.But first, we want a little help from you: click here and like our Facebook page!
What to see: Top Attractions in San Gimignano
Follow our travel guide step by step and enjoy your time there!
1. Explore the Historical City Center
San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture and its tower houses: it’s also known as the Town of Fine Towers. The Historical Centre is a unique beautiful place, very well preserved. Historically valuable, was once an important artistic center: That’s why is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The heart of the city is the main square, called Piazza della Cisterna. From there, two main streets divide the town in half: Via San Giovanni and Via San Matteo. We suggest you to start the tour from south, at the beginning of Via San Giovanni.
Get in the city through Porta San Giovanni and start heading north towards the main street. Here you will find a lot of local shops selling local specialties, but we’ll talk about it in the next paragraphs. Before arriving to the main square, turn right to the panoramic point and enjoy a stunning view.
Piazza della Cisterna is a fascinating medieval square, one of the top attractions in San Gimignano. Cisterna means well, and you can actually still find it there. Take your time here, and admire the buildings all around. Close to this square, there is the second most important square of the town.
Piazza Duomo, or Cathedral Square, is a must see. The impressive Church of Santa Maria Assunta stands between the towers and the medieval buildings; it has a giant staircase that adds charm to the place. It is almost 1.000 years old, and the interiors are really incredible. You’ll be amazed by the Romanesque details, the decorative use of color, the use of lapis lazuli and the geometric red, white and gold decorations.
After the visit at the Church, go north. The main street is Via San Matteo, and it goes down. In this area you will find the best restaurants of San Gimignano and a couple of interesting things to see. First, the Archaeological Museum that documents the origins of the town. Then, the Spezieria di Santa Fina with its precious pharmacy vases that still preserve the traditional medicinal preparations!
2. Get high: the towers of San Gimignano
Talking about the top attractions in San Gimignano means talking about its towers. Torre Grossa is open to the public, and it’s an amazing surprise. It’s close to the Cathedral, and it’s the tallest tower of the town. Climb it up and you will enjoy a heavenly view. Inside the tower, there are various frescos that speak of love.
Once on the top, you will enjoy a marvelous panorama. The view of the town with its medieval houses surrounded by the Tuscan countryside, is something to die for.
3. Visit the museums
San Gimignano has a nice museum complex. It is called Musei Civici and includes:
- Torre Grossa.
- Palazzo Comunale, or Municipal Palace. The building has been the seat of the civic authority in the comune since the 13th century. It contains important fresco decorations and paintings by Memmi, Gozzoli and Pinturicchio.
- Pinacoteca Civica, or Art Gallery. Here you will find masterpieces from the Sienese and Florentine Schools.
There are different kinds of tickets, depending on what you want to see. Check the official website for related info.
4. Take a photo session
San Gimignano is a magic place for photography. So, while you are enjoying your visit here, you better use your time to shoot nice photos. We especially enjoyed shooting of two kinds of photography:
- Portrait: whether you are going there with friends or with your lover, they will ask for a picture! We suggest you to go away from the busiest streets and find a calm, secondary narrow one. The light will be soft and nice, since it’s filtered somehow by the tall buildings. Play with the medieval walls and with the perspective!
- Landscape: walking aroung the town, you will find some panoramic points. Don’t miss them! If you have a car, here is what you have to do. After the visit to the town, drive northwards and look around. There are some incredible panoramic points on the road. You just need to stop the car whenever it’s possible and shoot your photos. Look for the vineyards, it’s an everlasting classic!
5. Buy the local delicatessen
Did you know that eating and buying the local products must be listed among the top attractions in San Gimignano? There are four exceptional products that you should try:
- Pecorino: it’s the best known cheese in Tuscany. Made of sheep milk, it’s a divine cheese. It can be matured for a few months as well as fresh: The maturation process affects the final taste of the product. The older it is, the stronger the flavour it has. Can be also flavored with herbs, pepper and so on. Don’t miss it!
- Wine: Tuscany is one of most important producers of Italians wines. San Gimignano vineyards produce mainly two different local wines, both famous in the world: Chianti and Vernaccia. The first one is a strong red wine, a delicious Italian excellence. Vernaccia is a quite strong white wine – usually 13% alchool volume – perfect for an aperitivo.
- Truffle: the surroundings of San Gimignano are a great place for black truffles. Less renowned than the white one, the black truffle is still a good choice. You can easily find truffle sauces or sausages in the streets, or even the entire product, ready for sale. Otherwise, many restaurants list it on their menu. It’s gorgeous with homemade pasta.
- Saffron: another local speciality. It is cultivated from August in the surrounding hills. Something to bring home!
6. Eat like a king
As we said, eating is absolutely one of the top attractions in San Gimignano. The Tuscan cuisine is one of the best in Italy, and consequently in the world. So, what should you eat there?
- Cold cuts: prosciutto crudo ( raw ham), pork and wild boar salami. These are the must try.
- Cheese: we already mentioned Pecorino. It’s also perfect as an appetizer.
- Pici and Homemade Pasta: simply delicious, among our all time favorite dishes.
- Beef and pork: there is so much more than Fiorentina steak in Tuscany. The meat is excellent, so if you aren’t a vegetarian, it’s a good choice.
- Game: wild boar, venison and hare. The region is full of these delicatessen!
- Ice cream: in the main square there are two Ice cream parlours, Gelateria Dondoli and Gelateria dell’Olmo. Both of them claims to produce the best ice cream in the world. So we tried both of them! The result? They are both amazing. We don’t know if they are the best ones in the world, but we guarantee that they were among the best ice creams we’ve ever had.
Travel Hysteria’s choice
If you want to have a proper, delicious lunch or dinner, we would like to suggest an authentic family restaurant.
Osteria delle Catene is the place to go. Virgilio, the waiter, is friendly and polite, always ready for a nice chat. He will guide you through the marvelous menu, giving all the tips that you need. Try homemade Pappardelle with hare or wild boar ragu, they are heavenly! Their Prosciutto Crudo is also awesome. Be sure to go there if you want to try the authentic local cuisine.
Have you ever been in this magnificent town? What other things could be included among the top attractions in San Gimignano? Let us know in the comments and share this post on Facebook!