With its forest of towers looming on the horizon, San Gimignano is one of the most iconic and recognisable destinations in all of Tuscany. From all over the world, there is someone who dreams of reaching this ancient Val d'Elsa village to experience a perfect medieval postcard. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990, San Gimignano is also known as the 'Manhattan of the Middle Ages' and owes its fame to the incredible number of towers that towered over the roofs of the town.
In its heyday, San Gimignano counted up to 72 towers: the oldest among them is the Torre Rognosa, also known as the Clock Tower, which was built in the early 13th century. In medieval times, in fact, the towers owned by the wealthy families of the city were built to symbolise the power and economic wealth of their lineage.
As time went by in the 16th century, due to the depopulation of the city and the economic crisis, little less than half of them remained: many towers collapsed and many were instead scapitozzate (i.e. deprived of the upper part), such as the Twin Towers of the Salvucci family. Today, thirteen remain and contribute to a certainly unique skyline.
A visit to the historical centre of San Gimignano does not end with the contemplation of its verticality. Also not to be missed is the Duomo: completed in 1148, it is considered one of the most prestigious in Tuscany. Divided into three naves, the Cathedral is a true anthology of frescoes of the Florentine school: from Benozzo Gozzoli's Saint Sebastian, to Domenico Ghirlandaio's Stories of Santa Fina - inside the Chapel of Santa Fina - to the Wooden Statues by Jacopo della Quercia.
The Palazzo Comunale (also known as the Palazzo Pubblico) is also interesting. It currently houses the Civic Museum and Art Gallery, where works by artists such as Pinturicchio, Benozzo Gozzoli, Filippino Lippi, Domenico di Michelino and Pier Francesco Fiorentino can be admired. Also inside the Palazzo Comunale, it is possible to visit Dante's room with Lippo Memmi's Majesty and to access the Torre del Podestà - or Torre Grossa - which, at 54 metres, has been the tallest tower in San Gimignano since the year of its erection in 1311. But there is much more. At the Museum of Torture and Death Penalty you will find a special collection of instruments dating back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
Continuing through the historical centre, you will come across the Piazza della Cisterna, which owes its name to a public cistern built in the medieval period for public use and topped by a famous and iconic travertine well.
A stop at the documentation and tasting centre for wine and local products Vernaccia di San Gimignano Wine Experience-La Rocca, with its tasting counter and multimedia itinerary to discover the history of wine through images, lights, sounds, voices, videos, holograms, and viewers with 360-degree films, is a must.