My Best Tips for Visiting San Gimignano

When you’re visiting San Gimignano, you really are visiting one of the absolute pearls of Tuscany. A walled medieval center in the middle of some rolling hills full of vines, you really must visit this beautiful town. Once upon a time San Gimignano had no less than 72 towers, but now there are still 14 that shape the town’s skyline.

I made a trip to and visited the town during one of my trips to Italy, so now I’m sharing my tips for San Gimignano: the most beautiful sights, a great restaurant and our beautiful agriturismo in the area!

Visiting San Gimignano: How to Get Here

San Gimignano is located in Tuscany, in the province of Siena. The town lies roughly between the cities of Siena and Florence. Drive about an hour to Siena in the South and an hour and fifteen minutes to Florence in the North. The city of Pisa, in the west, can also be easily reached in less than an hour and a half. It is best to fly to Florence or Pisa.

The easiest way to get there is by car, since San Gimignano has no train station. You can take a direct bus from Siena. But if you also want to see some of the beautiful surroundings, I advise you to rent a car . I always rent my cars through Sunnycars.

If you can’t rent a car, your other options it do a day trip from Florence. This tour also has a wine tasting and stops in Siena.

Parking in San Gimignano

The center of San Gimignano is car-free, so you’ll have to park your car nearby. There are four parking spaces around San Gimignano, which are conveniently numbered P1 (€ 1.50 per hour) and P2, P3 and P4 where you all pay € 2 per hour. Through this website you can see not only the locations of the parking places, but also the current number of parking places.

History of San Gimignano

The first buildings on the site of present-day San Gimignano date back to 3rd century BC. The name San Gimignano dates from 450 AD, when Bishop Geminian saved the local castle from the followers of Attila the Hun. In his honor a small church bore his name, around which a small walled village, named San Gimignano, emerged in the 6th and 7th centuries.

The village was on Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrim route from France to Rome and the Vatican. This brought a lot of people and activity. The trade in products from the fertile Tuscan landscape also generated a lot of income.

In the Middle Ages, San Gimignano saw a lot of conflict between rich and powerful families, who all wanted to build the highest towers in the city as a demonstration of their status. 

This ensured that at the end of the Middle Ages there were no fewer than 72 high towers in San Gimignano. The struggle only stopped when the municipality decided that no tower should be higher than that of the Palazzo Comunale.

In the disaster year 1348, the prosperity of the town came to an end, when half the population died of the plague. San Gimignano, an independent city for a long time, joined Florence from that moment on. And from then on time stood still in the city.

What to See While Visiting San Gimignano

The beautiful San Gimignano is known for its Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and the many towers that know the city center. The entire city center is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. If you want, you can book a private tour to get to know San Gimignano better.

1. Torre Grossa

No fewer than 14 medieval towers have been preserved in San Gimignano, of which Torre Grossa is the best known. At 54 meters, this is the highest tower in the town. 

The tower dates from 1310 and stands at the Palazzo Comunale on the Piazza del Duomo. So this was the tower that put an end to the passive aggressive tower war that raged among the wealthy families in San Gimignano.

2. Palazzo Comunale

This is the town hall, which is also called the Palazzo del Popolo (the palace of the people). The municipal power has been based here since the thirteenth century. Together with the Torre Grossa and the Collegiata, these buildings on the Piazza del Duomo form the heart of the medieval city. You will also find a museum in the building.

3. Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta

Next to the Palazzo Comunale and the Torre Grossa is the largest church in the town, Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta. This Roman Catholic basilica is famous for its frescoes. Although a church already existed at this location in the tenth century, this church dates from 1148 and was dedicated to St. Geminianus. The church is also called the Duomo of San Gimignano, by the way.

Buy your tickets for the church here.

4. Sant’Agostino

Sant’Agostino is the second largest church in San Gimignano. The building dates from the 13th century. Inside the church you will find a number of special frescoes.

5. Piazza della Cisterna

Piazza della Cisterna is the nicest and most beautiful square in San Gimignano. This triangular square was laid out in the 13th century. Back then it was a mixed bag of workshops and bars, but now you will find beautiful palaces, high towers, entrance gates, and a well, for which the square is named.

You will also regularly find a market or other festivals there. When we were there there was both a medieval festival and a market going on.

6. Rocca di Montestaffoli

Just outside the walled city of San Gimignano is the ancient fortress of Montestaffoli. It became a 14th-century fortress built on a hill near the city to defend San Gimignano against attacks. There is not much to see anymore, but you do have a nice view over the city.

7. Punto Panoramico

One of the nicest things about San Gimignano is its location in the Tuscan hills, so it’s a shame if you don’t go to a nice viewpoint to enjoy the surroundings. I found the view from Punto Panoramico very beautiful, on the east side of the city.

8. Most beautiful view of the skyline

But the most beautiful thing is still the view of the city with its beautiful towers. You can photograph the best views and photos along the “Strada Comunale di Santa Lucia” road. Thank me later ;-)

9. San Gimignano Pass

With the San Gimignano pass you get access to the most important museums and places of interest in the city. This is valid for two days. Climb the Torre Grossa , visit the Spezieria dello Spedale di Santa Fina (historic pharmacy), and visit both the Museo Archeologico and the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art that is filled with paintings of Tuscan landscapes.

Buy the San Gimignano pass here

Where to Eat in San Gimignano

I only spent one day in San Gimignano, so I don’t have that many tips, but I do have the only tip that you really need. Trust me. La Mangiatoia served the tastiest meal I have eaten in all of Italy. Yes, really. This restaurant is that good.

We landed here for a nice slow lunch during a warm afternoon in San Gimignano. La Mangiatoia is in a side street and serves delicious Tuscan dishes for a fair price. I chose the truffle crepe and oh my god. That was really great, so creamy, so soft, so good. They also serve other local specialties such as wild boar.

Also nice: the walls of the toilet are completely filled with personal stories of visitors celebrating birthdays, weddings and other things. I like this. I can really recommend this restaurant to you. The apertivo also looked great.

Address: Via Mainardi 5, San Gimignano

Where to Stay: Agriturismo San Gimignano

Of course you can stay full in the heart of San Gimignano, but it is even more fun to look for a nice agriturismo in the countryside. And can I really highly recommend the one I slept in. 

It’s called Sant’Atonio, and it’s a 20/30 minute drive from San Gimignano. In the middle of the meadows, at the end of a gravel road, between the rolling Tuscan hills.

The agriturismo is run by an old Italian granny who doesn’t speak a word of English and her daughter (I think), who luckily does. Above your bed hangs a cross, and from the pool you look out at the vineyards of the area. 

In the evening you eat for a pittance in the local restaurant, which is also run by the family. You eat local classics such as wild boar, or just a nice pizza and drink very cheap carafes of wine.

Really, this is vacation. I wish I had stayed here for a few nights to really relax. The sunset over the misty hills was dreamy.

See here the availability and current prices.

Those were my best tips for visiting San Gimignano. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the region. For other places to visit in Italy, check out my guides for what to do in Milan, how to visit Cinque Terre, how to spend a romantic time in Verona, what to do in Trento, and, of course, my tips for Rome, from the coolest sights to how to skip the lines. And while it’s not technically part of Italy, don’t miss visiting the Vatican.

What do you think of visiting San Gimignano? Share it in the comments!

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One comment

  1. Rachel

    Great tips! We visited San Gimignano VERY briefly on a Tuscany day tour and definitely want to go back to spend more time in the area. The views are unbelievable and staying in a little villa out there sounds amazing!

    Reply

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