San Gimignano

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: August 2022

San Gimignano is a charming town located on a hilltop in the Tuscany countryside. It is known as the Town of Fine Towers. During medieval times, seventy two tower-houses were built by rich families to showcase their wealth. Today, only fourteen remain. Encircled by an ancient wall, San Gimignano also contains other medieval architecture and provides sweeping views of the surrounding area.

One of the main reasons for our trip to Italy was to go to my friend’s wedding. We had rented a car for a few days to get to the venue, which was located near the border between Tuscany and Umbria. Since the welcome dinner wasn’t until 7p.m, we figured we’d make the most of having a car and explore some of the smaller towns in the area.

After eating an early breakfast, we packed our stuff, checked out of our accommodations and picked up our car rental. From Florence it’s about an hour drive to get to San Gimignano. While driving in Italy went much smoother than expected, finding parking on the other hand was a nightmare. While there are a few parking lots located just outside of the town walls, there were signs to indicate that they were all full. After waiting several minutes at the last parking lot to come up with an alternative plan, we caught a lucky break and found someone who was just leaving. Perfect.

We strolled through the narrow streets towards the Piazza del Duomo, a square located in the heart of San Gimignano which provided a nice view of the surrounding towers. We figured we might as well get our workout out of the way by climbing Torre Grossa (the “big tower”), which is the tallest of the towers and is located in the Palazzo Comunale.

Torre Grossa was once used as a watchtower and bell tower. Today, it is the only tower in San Gimignano that is open to the public. It stands at 54 metres (or 177 feet) and there are 218 stops to reach the top. The staircase itself was pretty straightforward and the steps were wide, except for the last stretch which involves climbing up a steep ladder to reach the roof. It was well worth the effort for a panoramic view of the town and surrounding countryside.

On the way back down, we visited the Museo Civico, which is also part of the Palazzo Comunale. The museum consists of a collection of frescoes along the walls and other artwork.

Afterwards we visited the Duomo of San Gimignano. While the outside facade of the church looks rather unassuming, inside it contains a beautiful collection of frescoes painted all over the ceiling and walls.

To refuel, we stopped for some pizza and found a shaded spot to eat our lunch. We then visited the San Gimignano 1300, a “museum” (if it can be called that, but hey, it was free) that showcases a miniature model of what San Gimignano looked like back in 1300, back when there were many more house-towers.

We started to make our way back to the car and stopped at Sant’Agostino, a church which is reputed to contain more beautiful frescoes. We wouldn’t know as it was closed when we visited. We’ll just have to use our imagination. We didn’t mind so much as we got to explore more of the town.

From there we continued our drive through the quiet countryside towards the border of Umbria.


61 thoughts on “San Gimignano

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! The plus side to climbing up the fat tower was that the staircase was quite wide and it didn’t feel as claustrophobic compared to some of the others that we visited. The panoramic views from the top were gorgeous. I love all the rolling hills in the background. Take care. Linda

  1. kagould17 says:

    I love the Italian and French hill towns. This one has such great views and the history. The rich Italians loved their tall towers. We saw the same thing in Lucca. Too bad about the closed church. Next time. Happy Thanksgiving weekend Linda. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were a bit nervous about renting a car in Italy, but I’m glad it worked out and we were able to explore more of the Tuscan countryside. The tall towers are something else. It’s hard to believe that there were over seventy of them in this one small town. And yes, there’s always next time! Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well. Take care. Linda

  2. Bernie says:

    What a great view! The buildings do seem rather bland but wow the insides are amazing and I love the mint display that shows the full glory of it. Bernie

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The exterior of the buildings do seem rather plain, especially of the Duomo of San Gimignano. It was quite the surprise to see all the beautifully painted frescoes on the domes, walls and ceiling from the inside. Agreed, it was neat to see what the town looked like back in the day with all those tall towers. I imagine people back then must have been very fit.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! All those rolling hills are stunning. I’m glad we ended up renting a car so we could see more of the quiet countryside and explore at our own pace. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving too. Linda

  3. wetanddustyroads says:

    Indeed, the panoramic view from that watchtower is beautiful – what a way to look over the landscape! Imagine living in these high tower-houses … you might be rich, but you will certainly climbing stairs the whole day! Great photos!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. And I know, they must have been super fit to have been climbing up those steps everyday. I’m such a fan of climbing any and all towers as it’s a great way to get a different perspective of the area. The views from the top were beautiful with all those rolling hills in the background.

  4. Ab says:

    Oh my goodness, the town and valleys you explored and drove through are so beautiful. The old but still strong and sturdy buildings are so beautiful and charming. And the frescoes along the walls and ceilings are quite stunning.

    And I love that the two of you packed a whole day of driving and sightseeing before a wedding dinner! 😆 You really do know how to maximize your time and life. Such an inspiration.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and K. Our Turkey is roasting in the oven as I type. 😊

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were a bit nervous about renting a car in Italy, especially since it almost didn’t happen. First K left his glasses at home, but thankfully his brother who is an optometrist was driving us to the airport and called his office to make a new pair for us to pick up along the way. Then he forgot to get an International Driving Permit to be able to drive in Italy, but thankfully managed to find a work around by finding someone who was able to do an official translation of his driver’s licence. It turns out they were only open one day of the month, which was one of the days that we were in Florence. I’m glad it all worked out as renting the car was a great way to explore the Tuscan countryside at our own pace. Thankfully we had plenty of time afterwards to get ready for the welcome dinner!

      Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving too. I am still stuffed from eating way too much!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was easily the most scenic and memorable wedding I’ve ever been to (besides my own of course)! The venue was located in some small villa in the quiet countryside. The views were beautiful and the food was fantastic. It was all very lovely. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work was involved to plan a wedding in a different country!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Going to a friend’s wedding was a great reason to visit Italy. The venue was so beautiful and the food outstanding. We had a wonderful time. Enjoy the rest of your week as well. Linda

  5. Linda K says:

    What a gorgeous area! I’ve heard that this is often a favourite town for people visiting that region. More wonderful scenic views from a tower…worth every step!! Will hopefully get there one day 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I can see why San Gimignano is such a popular spot to visit in Tuscany. It’s so charming. It was nice to get a panoramic view of the entire town from up in the tower. The only downside was that because it’s such a small town, it felt a bit claustrophobic with all the other tourists. Hopefully you’re able to visit someday. I’d recommend not coming during the middle of summer though as the heat and crowds are intense!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. This was actually one of the best slices of pizza that we had during our trip to Italy. It was freshly made and hot out of the oven! And agreed, the miniature model of the town was a great way to visualize how San Gimignano once looked with the ridiculous number of house-towers.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      San Gimignano is very picturesque with all its medieval architecture and tall towers. We were nervous about renting a car in Italy for the driving (or rather dealing with the crazy drivers), but it turns out parking was the biggest hassle. Thankfully the timing seemed to have worked out well for us, otherwise we might have had to change our game plan.

  6. leightontravels says:

    San Gimignano is lovely. It’s hard not to fall in love with these old Italian towns, so quaint and charming. The fresco-covered walls of Duomo of San Gimignano are stunning. The town has a definite air of a place I’d love to have a wander around.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, San Gimignano is a very charming town. We had a wonderful time just wandering around the narrow cobblestone streets. The only issue was because it’s so small, it was a bit of a challenge to find parking and it felt very crowded in the main square.

  7. says:

    On my Chianti walk from Siena to Florence, we caught sight of the towers of San Gimignano from a distance across the beautiful Tuscan countryside, but that’s the closest I’ve got unfortunately. This post so makes me want to return for more Tuscany.

  8. jlkalloch says:

    What a beautiful location for a wedding! I love all of the Medieval architecture and that ceiling in the Duomo….stunning. Need to add this to my ever growing destination list 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Tuscan countryside is very scenic and was such a beautiful spot for a wedding. It was also a few degrees cooler than in the city. San Gimignano was a very charming town to stop for a visit before making our way to the venue. And yes, it’s funny how the travel bucket list just keeps growing.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Climbing those towers is always quite the workout, especially in the intense heat, but it’s always worth it for the sweeping views of the surrounding area. Agreed, the churches in Europe are so beautiful, especially in comparison to what we have in Canada.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. It was quite the surprise to see all the colourful frescoes considering how bland the exterior of the church was. We had a wonderful time just wandering through the narrow streets in San Gimignano and admiring all the medieval architecture.

  9. Bama says:

    Squeezing in San Gimignano before attending the wedding sounds like a great decision. The towers look impressive and the frescoes magnificent. The fact that all this can be found in such a small town really makes San Gimignano too good to miss when one happens to be traveling around Tuscany. I got the impression that wherever you go, you need to climb something! 😆

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You bet. It was nice to make the most of having our rental car, especially since it was a bit expensive to book. The only issue with having the car was finding a spot to park! San Gimignano was very charming and I just loved how walkable everything was. And yes! I’m such a fan of climbing things, whether it’s a mountain or a tower, it’s a great way to get a panoramic view of the surrounding area! It’s always worth the effort, even in the heat.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Italy is filled with lovely views, especially in the hilly Tuscan countryside. The food (and wine) was also amazing. I would love to go back as there’s still so many towns and regions we have yet to explore.

  10. Lookoom says:

    Congratulations for climbing all the stairs, again, there are so many stairs in Italy. From the top the city looks like a model. Though the porticos along the houses, with their large majestic arches, are visible. The lack of decoration on the facades is a surprise.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! We climbed a lot of towers during our trip to Italy and I think this one was actually the shortest. It’s always nice to get a panoramic view of the city and see how it looks from up above. And agreed, the buildings themselves do look a bit bland, but inside is quite a surprise, especially of the Duomo of San Gimignano with all the beautifully coloured frescoes.

  11. BrittnyLee says:

    You saw a good portion of goodies here !! Gorgeous photos . I love learning about all the history visiting other places. It’s amazing how each place has their own history and architecture. Tuscany sounds and appears beautiful. I hope the wedding went well 😃 great post ! Congrats to your friend ❤️

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks so much. Tuscany is very picturesque with all those rolling hills and medieval towns. San Gimignano is very charming, even if I struggle to pronounce its name. The wedding was such a great excuse to explore more of Italy. It was definitely a memorable experience and the best food I’ve ever had at a wedding before.

  12. rkrontheroad says:

    How interesting that there were so many towers on regular houses, not just fortresses or government buildings. Was there a room up top? Wonder what they did up there, wave to each other? 😊

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ha! Those towers do seem a bit silly since they were really just for show. The idea was that the higher the tower, the more wealthy you were. They didn’t serve many practical purposes and there was no larger room at the top. I can’t complain too much as the remaining towers were fun to photograph. Plus the views from the top of the tower that we could climb were stunning.

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