Pack your suitcase: we’ll take you on a trip with us! We decided to explore San Gimignano in Tuscany, the city famous for its towers, but not only that! In fact, in San Gimignano there is also the Gelateria Dondoli, whose ice cream has received several awards including that of World Champion!
San Gimignano in Tuscany
Have you ever taken a train in Italy? The one we travelled on is called “regional train”. Regional trains are those trains that connect the various cities within each Italian region. Instead, trains that connect cities that are located in different regions are called Intercity or Arrows, which are faster and always have a seat assigned.
Beware! If you decide to use an Italian bus, do not forget to OBLITERARE your ticket, that is to insert it in the special machines, which stamp it with the date and time to indicate that it was used.
San Gimignano’s charateristics
San Gimignano is located on a hill at an altitude of about 324 meters. It is a beautiful medieval borgo with its original walls. But what is a borgo? In Italian, a small town is called “village”. The “borghi” , however, although they are small towns, are distinguished from the villages because they have rather specific characteristics: they must be ancient with the original architecture of the time and well recognizable, they must take care of the decoration of the urban center, offer places of tourist interest or events of cultural interest, have products DOC, DOP, DOCG or IGP and have accommodation and catering facilities open all year round.
San Gimignano respects practically all these characteristics. In fact, it dates back to the Middle Ages and the architecture of the time has remained practically preserved, from the walls, to the buildings, to the.
What to see in San Gimignano
The towers are perhaps the most famous thing in San Gimignano! Originally, there were 72, one for every wealthy family in the area. Today only 13 remain and are considered the symbol of medieval Tuscan architecture. In addition, since 1990 they are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In short, to visit San Gimignano you should not have problems or neck aches, because it is a must to always be with your head up, to admire these beautiful towers.
Each one of them is beautiful and particular, but among the most famous is the one located near Piazza della Cisterna, near the church. It’s called Devil’s Tower because, according to legend, when the owner came back from a long trip, he found the tallest tower when he left. From here the tower was seen as the work of the Devil, from wich it took its name.
It was built by the will of the Podestà Guccio dei Malavolti, whose coat of arms represents a staircase. The name of the square comes from the octagonal well that is located in the center and that features just the coat of arms of the Podestà. The square is a symbol of commercial life because it housed shops, the market and rides. From here you can admire many buildings such as the Palazzo Pellari and the towers, including the Tower of the Devil! A special feature of this square is the fact that it is located on the highest point on which the borgo is built, so it is a perfect place to rest after the ascents, refreshing yourself with the best ice cream in the world of the ice cream parlour Dondoli.
Collegiata of Santa Maria Assunta
This church is the cathedral of San Gimignano and although it may seem anonymous on the outside, inside it contains small treasures. In fact, the cathedral is completely frescoed, the colors strike the view and you should not miss any corner, because you can find frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli and Taddeo di Bartolo. It does not end here, the cathedral contains a wooden crucifix dating back to 1200 and a chapel frescoed by Ghirlandaio, the Chapel of Santa Fina.
Sant’ Agostino Church
It is usually left out, but we recommend it to admire the frescoes scattered throughout the church and the majolica floor (a type of ceramic production covered with a glaze, with which you can form various designs).
Housed in the Palazzo del Popolo, it contains a room dedicated to Dante, who stayed in San Gimignano in 1300, frescoed by Lippo Memmi. Passing through the Hall of Secret Gatherings, you can also reach the Torre Grossa (from where you can enjoy an excellent view), and then get to the Art Gallery, which contains works by Pinturicchio.
Very different from the artistic attractions, let’s say… certainly special and worthy of a visit, the Museum of Torture is formed by two small museums. The first contains tools and photos concerning the different methodologies that men used to torture, while the second has as its theme the death penalty. Definitely suggestive, suitable for those who want to know all the aspects of the past, even the most negative and dark.
The Via Francigena
Another small curiosity: did you know that San Gimignano is crossed by the Via Francigena? The Via Francigena is an ancient and important route that connects northern Europe to Rome, whose origins date back to the Middle Ages. It is a route of about 1800 km that starts from Canterbury, runs through the county of Kent, reaches the English Channel, continues along the French regions, crosses the Swiss border and enters Italy. Here it crosses seven regions until it reaches Rome, the Eternal City.
Getting lost in the alleys of this charming medieval village is one of the most beautiful experiences you can do in Tuscany. Guaranteed! And as if that wasn’t enough, San Gimignano offers incredible views! Such as those in the Parco della Rocca, from which you can admire the Tuscan hills and take photos… like catchers!
What to eat in San Gimignano
San Gimignano is also famous for being the borgo with the BEST ICE CREAM IN THE WORLD! You’re right, every time you try an ice cream that looks delicious you call it “the best in the world”, but what we are referring to is really good! We are talking about the ice cream of Gelateria Dondoli, which has won many awards and, for this, always has a long line of people. We met the owner, the father of the award-winning ice cream, who was kind enough to make an EXCLUSIVE video for LearnAmici!
Vernaccia, the typical wine
Of course you can not miss the typical wine of the borgo: Vernaccia, the only white wine of Tuscany! ( It is the only white in Tuscany to have the DOCG and in general white in Tuscany is pretty rare). It’s excellent to eat during the meal or for an aperitif accompanied by finocchiona and tuscan sopprassata.
Also called capofreddo or coppa di testa, it is a sausage formed with the scraps of the pig as tongue, tail and cartilaginous parts. These different parts are kept together thanks to cooking and are flavoured with spices and lemon and orange zest. It is very tasty and consistent and should not be confused with the soppressata, typical salami of southern Italy.
Recognized as a PGI product since 2015, it is a typical Tuscan sausage, it is prepared with minced pork, flavored with fennel seeds (hence its name) and then wet with red wine. There is also a variant, called sbriciolona, because it must be cut into thicker slices, which tend to crumble.
It is a native spice of the Middle East, arrived in Tuscany in 1200 and has an intense yellow color. In the past it was used as an exchange product instead of money, it has antioxidant and homeopathic properties and it is used as an ingredient in some typical dishes. In fact, this spice is added in Panina del Casentino, a sweet Easter bread, or in pici, a type of pasta typical of Tuscany, similar to spaghetti but bigger (remember what other types of pasta exist in Italy?), with sausage sauce.
A little trip like the one we did, that is, outside our own city but not too far away, lasting only one day, is called a “trip out of town”, because it is done outside the “door” of your city.
Don’t forget to take a look at our lesson about the history of the Medici, the richest and most powerful family in Italy.
If you like the shirts that Graziana and Rocco wear in the video, you can buy them in our online store LearnAmo Collection!
Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!