Through the gates leading to the city, San Gimignano is a wonderful mass of cobblestone streets that curve and wind around centuries-old Medieval buildings and structures, the most notable of which are the towers. Erected by wealthy local families, these medieval skyscrapers were used as protection and symbols of power. Each family built a new tower to outdo the last.
Virtually all of them have succumbed, however, to earthquakes, settlement problems (like the Tower of Pisa), age and changes in building codes. Today, only 14 or so of the more than 70 remain. But in no other town will you find so many as well preserved. A climb up to them will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside.
Though day trips to San Gimignano from Florence are hugely popular, solitary spots are easy to find. Simply, venture off the main streets. Or sit to people-watch. There’s a picture-perfect piazza, Piazza della Cisterna, in the center of town with cafes, shops, great gelaterie and a few good restaurants that face into the piazza.
Add to that a slew of restaurants tucked away on tiny side streets. Perhaps a trattoria that offers simple, Tuscan dishes and down-home hospitality with outdoor seating area overlooking the rolling hills of the Tuscan valley. The view is beautiful; you’ll feel that you’re dining in front of a painting.
San Gimignano is also home to the Torture Museum, with exhibits displaying instruments used on people through the centuries.
Cooks and shoppers delight
Equally interesting are the small shops in San Gimignano that line the Medieval cobblestone streets, selling artwork, ceramics, locally produced wine, olive oil, mushrooms of innumerable varieties, and honey. The conditions in San Gimignano are particularly well suited for growing saffron. You can find it in shops in October and November.
Sampling the wine is always a good "to do" to add to your itinerary. In fact, San Gimignano is famous for its Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a dry, white wine made in the region from the 13th century.
How to Get to San Gimignano from Florence
San Gimignano makes for an easy day trip from Florence. It is less than an hour bus trip from Florence with a quick transfer in the town of Poggibonsi. This is one of the most popular bus routes from Florence and the comfortable, air-conditioned buses are always filled with tourists. So, there’s no need to worry about making the transfer in Poggibonsi. Because the trains do not go to San Gimignano directly from Florence, most people opt for the bus, guided tour, or car.