Unique and exclusive, San Gimignano is perhaps the historic village that best represents the Italian Middle Ages. Its 14 towers that still make the city profile so unique today are but a small testimony of the power and wealth that reached some local families, up to 72 at the dawn of the fourteenth century, when the city saw the period of maximum splendor. Daughter of the road, as the village began to develop along the route of the Via Francigena, San Gimignano was already surrounded by walls in the year 1000 with a castle inside. The expansion of the city continued unabated between the 11th and 12th centuries, a period during which the city freed itself from the power of the Bishop until it became a free municipality (1199). The strategic position of the city, along the Via Francigena, facilitated a sophisticated system of wide-ranging trade and exchanges that San Gimignano was able to develop by increasing the wealth of many San Gimignano merchants who then gave way to the construction of the various towers, symbol of power of the local merchant class. Today San Gimignano is considered by all to be a city-museum where time seems to be suspended, but in reality it is a city in constant ferment rich in artistic contamination and eccentric cultural proposals, it is not surprising that in the city there is one of the most known in the world “Galleria Continua”. In addition to the museums and the layered history in every corner, square or alley of the village, here you will find restaurants, shops, museums, wine bars where you can drink Vernaccia and one of the best ice creams in the world, a place where it is impossible to get bored!
The village is accessed through two splendid gothic doors with a lowered arch, Porta San Giovanni and Porta San Matteo, joined by the route of the Via Francigena that crosses the city. Inside, a maze of narrow alleys and alleys, stairs, ancient churches and extraordinary noble palaces that find their point of balance in the two adjacent squares, the Cathedral and the Cistern, the latter with a triangular plan and a floor entirely in terracotta. Numerous thirteenth-century tower-houses overlook both squares, while on Piazza Duomo there is the Palazzo del Popolo with the Civic Museum inside which houses precious paintings by Lippo Memmi, Coppo di Marcovaldo, Pinturicchio and Benozzo Gozzoli just to name a few and the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta which can be reached via a scenic staircase. Dating back to the year 1000, the church is divided into three naves, with the two side aisles entirely decorated with episodes from the Old and New Testament. Inside there is also the chapel of Santa Fina. An immeasurable devotion on the part of the city has been directed towards the Saint for centuries, which is still perceived today. Continuing behind the Collegiate Church, a series of stairways lead to the fortress of Montestaffoli, located on the highest point of the city and where there is the only remaining tower that offers a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding Sienese countryside. Leaving the fortress behind, continue along Via San Matteo to reach Piazza S. Agostino. The square has a unique pavement, fishbone and knife, on which the Romanesque Church of S. Pietro and the Church of Sant’Agostino open. In perfect Gothic style, the church of Sant’Agostino has a single nave with a rectangular apse and is flanked by minor chapels, it was built at the end of the 13th century. Of particular value is the life of St. Augustine frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli on the walls of the choir.