SAN GIMIGNANO: a MEDIEVAL MANHATTAN

December 22nd, 2013, by Steven in Italy, Uncategorized.

(photo by Miheal Grmek)

Located in the Tuscan region of Italy, San Gimignano is a small, medieval (largely built in the 14th and 15th centuries), walled town. It is perched timelessly on a perfect little Tuscan hill and features a perfect little skyline of medieval stone towers, built due to a perfect little pissing contest between the local merchant families. In an attempt to outdo each other, the towers rose higher and higher, up to a height of nearly 70 meters (200 feet). At its peak, 72 towers graced the skyline. Today, fourteen remain. Tuscany was the world’s Manhattan 700 years ago and San Gimignano is the best place to experience its past heights.

I’d seen a picture of San Gimignano is one of my urban planning textbooks when I was a freshman in college. It was the “Skylines” chapter of The City Shaped by Spiro Kostov. It struck me as a kind of childlike fantasy of an ancient fairytale city. I knew I’d have to visit if I was ever in Italy. I was able to make a little road trip there after a summer of work in Greece.

Get There

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

En route to San Gimignano from Florence. Our little VW takes a break (photo by Steven)

 

 

San Gimignano is located in Tuscany; 56 km southwest of Florence and 12 km northwest of Siena. It makes for a good day trip from either of those two cities, but it’s worth spending one night here, as the place really changes character after the day trippers go home after sundown.

Myself, my sister and pal Dave and I rented a car in Florence for a surprisingly high price of about 80€. I believe rentals from the Florence airport begin at 35€. We parked our car outside the city walls and walked into the walled city by foot. Do not attempt to drive into the village.

There is no train station.

To get to San Gimignano by bus, you can first travel to Poggibonsi by bus or train from either Siena (5€) or Florence (6€). From Poggibonsi station, it is a 20-minute ride (3€) to San Gimigano.


顯示詳細地圖

checkout

 

 

The towers, duh.

Piazza del Duomo

Start here, at the center of the village. This is the place to get a good vantage point of the town both horizontally and vertically.

San Gimignao 1300

Via Berignano, 17, San Gimignano

A cool museum that has as its showcase a model of the village as it looked in 1300. If you don’t have a time machine, it’s well worth a look. Open every day for free.

Piazza della Cisterna

Smallish plaza with a Thursday market.

Torre Grossa

Finished in 1311 and on the Palazzo Communale, this is the tallest climbable tower in San Gimignano. There is no elevator, so you have to walk up. Thankfully, stairs are provided for this.

Steven, enjoying the breeze at the top of Torre Grossa (photo by David Parish)

Hairy, relaxed and enjoying the breeze at the top of Torre Grossa (photo by David Parish)

wheretoeat

 

 

Baboli

Via San Giovanni, 30/32

I’m a bit of a cheap bastard and most of the restaurants in towns were expensive. We did have a nice meal and drink at a cool little place called Baboli. I had a good panini and all three of us enjoyed what we had with a local beer.

drink

 

 

Vernaccia di San Gimignano

This is Tuscany, so it’s all about wine. San Gimignano’s Vernaccia-based local whites were considered the best in Italy throughout the Renaissance. The wines are reasonably-priced and can be purchased throughout town and its vicinity. Don’t leave without a bottle.

wheretostay

 

 

Hotel rooms in San Gimignano are unique and filled with medieval character. However, they are not cheap- starting around €70 and going up from there. Though it’s costly on a budget, spending the night in this town is highly recommended, as the tourists generally head out by sundown and you can experience the town in a quieter, more local manner.

required_listening

 

on_film

 

 

Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna (1972)

The Meadow (Il Prato) (1979)

Tea with Mussolini (1999)

Where Angels Fear to Tread (1992)

Steven (82 Posts)

Steven is a roaming traveler, writer and urban planner based out of Asia. Connect with Steven on Steven Muzik on Google+!








Recent Articles

The 5 Best Night Markets in Taipei

Taipei is inarguably one of the top street food cities in the world. Taiwan is known as the land of snacks: they have literally...

8 of the Best Cafes in Hanoi

The big cities in Vietnam have a cafe culture that is virtually unknown to the rest of the world. Don’t expect a Chemex of...

How to Order Coffee in Vietnam Like a Local

Vietnam is a country that runs on coffee. There is a cafe on just about every block in Saigon and Hanoi and they’re packed...

10 THINGS I CAN’T TRAVEL WITHOUT

Recently I’ve taken a four-month break off of travel to settle into a comfortable life in a quiet town. It’s been nice, mostly.

I do...

LIVE LIKE A LOCAL: RENT A SHORT-TERM APARTMENT WHILE TRAVELING

If you want to experience the true life of a place, experience it like a local: get an apartment in a true neighborhood. Wake...

SIEM REAP’S 10 BEST BARS: CLASSY, HIDDEN DIVES JUST OUTSIDE OF ANGKOR

Every year I find myself in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a week. It’s inevitable, and always enjoyable.

Angkor Wat is, along with Bagan in Myanmar,...

‘A STOP AT WILLOUGHBY’: THE TWILIGHT ZONE EPISODE THAT EXPLORES OUR NEED TO TRAVEL

“a place around the bend where he could jump off”

Created during a time (1959-1964) when American television seemed eerily clean and domestic, The Twilight...

SURVIVING BORACAY ALONE

In March of 2012, I was nearly finished with a 3-week journey moving west through the Visayas region of The Philippines. Visayas is famous...

NEVADA’S ROUTE 50: AMERICA’S LONELIEST ROAD

Highway 50 is one of those generous, eternal American roads that goes from coast to coast (nearly). It begins in Sacramento, California and ends...

WHAT IS THE SAFEST SEAT ON AN AIRPLANE?

I grew up in 1980s America. I remember the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Scotland in 1988. I remember the...

VISITING THE TSINGTAO BEER FACTORY, HOME OF CHINA’S ICONIC BREW

Some travel destinations are tied to beer. Think: Munich, Milwaukee, Dublin, Sapporo. The seaside city of Qingdao, on China’s northeast Shandong coast is forever...