Our network: Latest news | Guides | Hotels
Wednesday 24 May 2017
Italiano English

San Gimignano - The old town centre and its major sights

Email this page | Printable

With its unmistakable towers that make it easy to spot even from a long way off, San Gimignano is in the province of Siena, in the Val d’Elsa hills.

This town achieved its peak of prosperity and development between the 9th and the 12th century AD and stands at a crossroads of the Via Francigena and the Via Pisana. The Etruscans settled here first, between the 3rd and 2nd century BC. In the 10th century AD the town was miraculously spared the devastations of the barbarian hordes led by Totila when the Bishop of Modena, St Gimignano (after whom the town is named), appeared in a vision on top of the fortifications. In 1119 San Gimignano became a free comune, governed first by consuls and later by a Podestà. A severe outbreak of Plague in 1348 brought decline, however, which culminated in the town passing under the rule of Florence. The fortifications we see today date from 1251, and the first towers began to appear at about this time. Originally San Gimignano had no less than 72 towers. Only 15 survive, however.

The centre of town is fairly small and easy to visit. Access is through Porta San Giovanni, which leads into Via San Giovanni, lined by magnificent 13th and 14th century buildings. This street in turn leads to Piazza della Cisterna, which takes its name from the large octagonal water cistern built in 1273 that supplied the entire town. After Piazza della Cisterna there is Piazza del Duomo, the religious and political centre of San Gimignano. Here stands the Palazzo del Popolo, or Palazzo Nuovo del Podestà, which today houses the town council of San Gimignano. Built in the 13th century, the building is surmounted by the impressive 54-metre tall Torre Grossa tower, erected in 1311. The tower is open to the public by passing through the Museo Civico that is also housed within the palazzo. The museum contains a number of interesting Florentine and Senese School paintings from the 13th century, as well as 15th century works by Pinturicchio, Filippino Lippi and Benozzo Gozzoli. The exterior of the building is crowned by crenellations added in the 19th century and by a gallery with a parapet known as arengo.

The Duomo, also known as the Chiesa Collegiata, is of Romanesque design and is consecrated to Santa Maria Assunta. In 1460 Giuliano da Maiano designed an enlargement of the building. The interior is structured around three naves and contains a cycle of mid-14th century frescoes of the Senese School, as well as well-preserved frescoes by Ghirlandaio depicting Episodes of the Life of St Fina in the Chapel of Santa Fina. There are also some sculptures by Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano.

Porta San Matteo leads into Via Cellolese and to the Romanesque-gothic Church of Sant’Agostino. The single nave interior has a truss ceiling and three ogival apses. Around 1450 Frà Domenico Strambi commissioned the building of the cloister. The remarkable painting that hangs above the high altar is by Pollaiolo and depicts the Crowning of the Virgin With Saints (1483). The main chapel contains a cycle of frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, of Episodes from the Life of St Augustine, completed between 1464 and 1465. Other less important churches in San Gimignano are the Church of Santo Bartolo, the Church of San Jacopo, the Church of San Piero and the Church of San Lorenzo in Ponte. The Museo d’Arte Sacra is also well worth a visit, with a collection that includes a number of extremely fine canvases, paintings on wood and fragments of stone tablets from convents and churches in the area or from the Collegiata. The Museo Archeologico contains Etruscan, Roman and Medieval finds unearthed in archaeological digs in the area around San Gimignano.

The fact that this town has remained virtually intact over the centuries offers a fascinating insight into what life was in this area in the 13th century. San Gimignano and the surrounding area are also well known for their excellent cuisine and for produce such as cured meats, vegetables preserved under oil, and wine. This area is the home of Vin Santo, as well as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Rosso and Rosato di San Gimignano – all quality DOC certified wines.

 

All'inizio

  General information
Town map 
Siena in the Renaissance 
Siena in the Middle Ages 
Siena in Antiquity 

  Transport in town
Town Map Siena 

  Transport out of town
Train services 

  Where to Stay
Historical Residences 
Hotels 
Farm Holidays and Country Houses  
Residence, Apartments 
Bed & Breakfasts 

  OFFERS & LAST MINUTE
Reservation Services Siena 
Last Minute Siena 

  Where to eat and drink
Disco Dancing 
Restaurants 
Pubs & Wine Bar 

  Education
Siena University 
University for Foreigners 

  Art and monuments
Palazzo Piccolomini and Palazzo delle Papesse 
Palazzo Chigi-Saracini 
Palazzo d’Elci degli Alessi 
Loggia della Mercanzia 
Palazzo Sansedoni 
Palazzo Chigi-Zondadari 
Fonte Gaia fountain 
Carthusian Monastery of Pontignano  
Forte di Santa Barbara 

  Art and religion
Church of Sant’Agostino 
The Duomo – The Cathedral of the Assunta 
Church of the Osservanza  
The Oratory of San Bernardino 
Church of San Francesco 
Short Biography of St Catherine of Siena  
St Catherine Sanctuary 
Church of S. Niccolò al Carmine 

  Museums and galleries
The Museo Civico 
Bologna-Buonsignori museum 
Accademia dei Fisiocritici 
I Musei Senesi 

  Art and tourist attractions
Cappella di Piazza 
The Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia 
Piazza del Campo 
The Montagnola Senese and the Fortified Village of Sovicille 
The Castles of Belcaro and Quattro Torri 

  The Palio of Siena
The Origins 
The July and August Palio 
The Contrade 
The Days of the Palio 
The Drappellone 
The Eve of the Palio 
The Corteo Storico Procession 
The Race 
The Patron Saint and Oratory of Each Contrada 
Weekly Appointments in each Contrada from April onwards 

  Sightseeing
Via di Città (formerly Via Galgaria), Siena’s Most Elegant Street 
Croce del Travaglio Place 
From Piazza del Campo to the Duomo Along Via di Città 
The Curves of Piazza del Campo 
Costarella dei Barbieri street 
Borgo d’Ovile 
The Terzo of Camollia – main streets 
Casato di Sopra e Casato di Sotto 
Terzo di San Martino district  
The Terzo di Città District - Via Stalloreggi, Via San Quirico 
The Terzo di Città District – The Pinacoteca Nazionale 

  What to see & do
Wedding in Siena 
Golf courses in Siena and Tuscany 
Wedding in Tuscany - Siena area 
San Casciano dei Bagni 
Chianciano Terme 
Bagni San Filippo 
Bagno Vignoni 
Rapolano Terme - Baths of San Giovanni and Baths of the Antica Querciolaia 
The Countryside around Siena and its Thermal Water Springs 

  Monte Amiata
Monte Amiata - nature tourism the year round 
SkiPass Monte Amiata 
WebCam sul Monte Amiata 
Meteo Monte Amiata 

  Specials - Out of town
Gift Ideas for traveling 
The Val d’Orcia and Its Main Towns 
Pienza - the old town centre 
Montepulciano - the old town centre 
San Quirico d’Orcia - the old town centre 
Montalcino and the Land of Brunello 
The Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore and the Crete 
The Crete Senesi 
Castellina in Chianti and the Via Chiantigiana Towards Siena 
Siena and Southern Chianti - from the Castle of Montalto to the Castle of Brolio and on to the Castle of Meleto 
The Chianti Hills - Monte Calvo, Monte Luco and Monte San Michele 
Cortona and the Valdichiana 
San Gimignano - The old town centre and its major sights 
The Val d’Elsa - Monteriggioni and Colle di Val d’Elsa 
Along the Old Via Francigena 

  Typical products
Segnala un'Attività