One of the hidden gems Emma recommends seeing is San Gimignano. Do you know it?
Hi everyone, my name is Emma, I am Italian and 26 years old. Last October, with my dear friend Marta, I created Taking A Ride In Tuscany, an Instagram page and experience guide for all lovers of Italy, especially Tuscany. I have visited many places, but one of the hidden gems of my region that I definitely recommend seeing, is San Gimignano. Do you know it?
San Gimignano is a small hill village located between Siena and Florence. It is famous for its architecture, and for its medieval towers that make the view truly unique. Surrounded by 13th century walls, the centerpiece of its historic center is Cisterna square, triangular and flanked by medieval houses. Extraordinarily scenic, Piazza della Cisterna is an obligatory point of passage. It is located at the top of the hill on which the Tuscan town is built, it is a good place to rest after facing the tough climbs, and to enjoy an excellent ice cream at the Dondoli ice cream parlor award-winning, and known all over the world.
Piazza della Cisterna takes its name from the octagonal well in the center of the square, and was built by the will of the Podestà Guccio dei Malavolti, whose coat of arms (a staircase) is carved on the stone of the well. Harmonious and cozy, it is certainly one of the most beautiful squares in Tuscany. If Piazza del Duomo is the political and religious center, Piazza della Cisterna has always been the “commercial” square because of the shops.
Looking towards Via Castello, we find Palazzo Tortoli with its four elegant 14th century mullioned windows, the Pucci tower, the Albergo della Cisterna, the Ridolfi palace, the towers and houses of the Becci and Cugnanesi, the Pellari palace and the Ardinghelli palace with the two towers. On the other side of the square there is the Devil’s Tower. It is said that the owner, returning from a long journey, found it had grown higher. Who could have done it in his absence if not the devil himself?
In the skyline of towers stands Torre Grossa made in stone. It all seems unreal when you look up to the sky in that square! Once, wealthy families came to build a total of 72 towers as a symbol of their wealth and power. Of these, only 14 remain today, which contribute to making the town atmosphere even more fascinating.
The Cathedral of San Gimignano, from the 12th century, with its Romanesque facade is divided into three naves. On the upper part of the counter-façade is the Martyrdom of San Sebastiano by Benozzo Gozzoli while in the central part the extraordinary Last Judgment by Taddeo di Bartolo. Along the right wall are the Stories of the New Testament, by the pupils of Simone Martini, and on the left Stories of the Old Testament by Bartolo di Fredi. The transept hides two other treasures: the 1200 polychrome wooden crucifix and the Chapel of Santa Fina.
Leaving the Duomo on the left, a small road leads to the Rocca di Montestaffoli, built to defend San Gimignano from the attacks of Siena. Not much remains of the ancient fortress but it is worth climbing into this green space to admire an extraordinary view of San Gimignano and the Valdelsa. Today. the fortress of Montestaffoli is a place of cultural events and festivals, in particular the Giostra dei Bastoni, which takes place in the third weekend of June.
An attraction that is a little macabre, but still a definite stop to make is the Torture museum. In reality, these are two small museums: the first, as soon as you enter the town, exhibits a complete itinerary on torture methods from all over the world on three floors, with original tools and equipment, detailed photos and explanations, and even some grossly quartered dummies. The other museum is located a little higher and has the death penalty as its theme.
San Gimignano has been a UNESCO Site Heritage since 1990. It is one of the small pearls of the province of Siena and also offers excellent local products, such as saffron and white wine called Vernaccia di San Gimignano. It is worth immortalizing every corner, a real Italian historical heritage jewel. Take a look…