City of the Beautiful Towers rich in History, Art and Culture surrounded by the splendid Tuscan countryside
"San Gimignano delle belle Torri" is situated in Tuscany, 56 km south of Florence. It served as an important relay point for pilgrims on the Via Francigena to and from Rome. The patrician families, who controlled the city, built some 72 tower-houses (up to 50m high) as symbols of their wealth and power. Only 14 have survived but San Gimignano has retained its feudal atmosphere and appearance. The city also contains masterpieces of 14th and 15th-century Italian art.
The towered silhouette of San Gimignano rising from the hills of the Upper Elsa Valley, facing the land of Volterra and positioned right on one of the most important stretches of the mediaeval Via Francigena, is famous all over the world.
A similar renown can also be claimed by its Vernaccia wine, recently awarded the D.O.C.G., the highest acknowledgement and guarantee for quality in Italian oenology and by the extremely pure saffron of San Gimignano, which is produced naturally without the use of any chemical products in all phases of its cultivation, drying and conservation.
San Gimignano stands 334 metres above the sea level on the site of a small Etruscan settlement dating from the Hellenistic period (Third to Second century B.C.).
Its history begings around the Tenth Century. It takes its name from the canonised Bishop of Modena who in the Sixth Century saved the town from Totila's invading hordes.
It developed considerably during the Middle Ages thanks to the Via Francigena which runs through the town, and there was a remarkable flowering of works of art, adorning churches, palaces and monasteries.
When in 1199 the town became a free commune, ridding itself of the Feudal ties to the Bishop of Volterra, it began its impressive growth as an urban centre.
It fought against the bishop and neighbouring communes, but suffered from internal strife, splitting into two factions, followers of the Ardinghelli (Guelphs) and the Salvucci (Ghibellines).
The terrible plague of 1348 and subsequent fall in population dealt a severe blow to the trading economy of San Gimignano.
The deep crisis led the governors of the city to declare their submission to Florence in 1353.
This, though, did not help the city of S. Gimignano which in the succeeding centuries suffered considerable decline and neglect.
However, the beauty of the town and its artistic and architectural importance, have led in recent years to an excellent economic and cultural revival. (TOWERS: of the original 72 Medieval towers, only 14 remain)
For further information: www.sangimignano.com
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