San Gimignano is located on a hill overlooking the Val d'Elsa valley, on the old Via Francigena. Out of the seventy-two erected, fourteen towers are today giving to the village a peculiar profile so that it is called “the Manhattan of the Middle Ages”.
The towers were built by rich families to seal their wealth and their victories in the internal struggles for power. Famous were the disputes between the Guelphs family of the Ardinghelli and the Ghibelline family of the Salvucci.
The village of San Gimignano is spread over an Etruscan settlement.
It emerges from the oblivion of the Middle Ages in the tenth century. Already in those years the town centre was developing with a first boundary wall topped by the fortress of Montestaffoli belonging to the Bishops of Volterra.
In the twelfth century the town became a free municipality, governed by the Ghibellines. During that time the well being of the inhabitants increased, thanks to the flourishing trade of agricultural products with other Italian cities.
In 1255 San Gimignano falls under the influence of Florence, which requires the demolition of the walls. A few years later, following the battle of Montaperti, the Ghibelline influence returns and the city walls are rebuilt and expanded. In these years there is the settlement in the city of several religious orders who build their convents, most of which are today open for visits.
In the 14th century the internal struggles between the rich families, famine and the plague decimated the population and the town finally went under the control of Florence.
San Gimignano today
Today San Gimignano is an extraordinary example of medieval town: the structure of the town centre and its buildings have remained intact. The town spreads on two roads: the Via Francigena in direction north-south; the road that linked Siena to Pisa in direction east-west. In the intersection of the two axes are the main squares, where large part of the noble buildings overlook, together with their lofty towers.
Piazza della Cisterna has a peculiar triangular shape, with the palaces Razzi, Silvestrini, Cortesi and Catani, and the towers of Ardinghelli, Pellaro of the so called Torre del Diavolo (Tower of the Devil).
On the Piazza del Duomo stands the Palazzo del Podesta with the tower called "the Rognosa" (52 metres), the Collegiate dating back to the eleventh century, the Palazzo del Popolo with the imposing Torre Grossa (54 metres).
The works of art and architectural ruins worth a visit in San Gimignano are countless. A visit can only leave you amazed, but above all it will leave you with the nose in the air because strolling around the medieval roads among the buildings, the walls, craft shops, the sight will always go to the sky and to the soaring towers that make this town absolutely unique.
EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
Festa del Partono | 31 January (fixed date)