If I could pick just one place in Tuscany that left me speechless, it would be the quaint, charming and incredibly unassuming little town of San Gimignano. Preserved so well that it makes you feel as if you have stepped through a time machine, this town is bursting with character and some of the friendliest locals you will encounter on your travels through Italy (though in fairness, most Italians are full of character!) To make the most of your time here, be sure to follow this quick guide to San Gimignano!
Introducing San Gimignano
Located southwest of Florence, this small Tuscan town on a hilltop can be reached in an hour by road, making it the perfect day trip from Florence. The town has managed to retain its medieval charm and is so well-kept that you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve taken a stroll back in time!
Aside from the gorgeousness, you’ll also find some of the world’s best gelato here (quite literally – be sure to read below!), very friendly locals, and some of the best views in all of Tuscany from the many towers. The town itself is very small, making walking the best way to get around. It is by walking that you will also discover the charm of the small cafes and boutiques, with plenty of wine tasting on offer throughout the streets!
Things to See & Do
Although relatively small in size (both geographically and by population), San Gamignano has a range of things to see and do to warrant a half day visit; more if you want to immerse yourself in the lively night scene and book an overnight stay. Whilst most of these attractions you will stumble upon just by walking the narrow streets, this list will help you ensure you check off all the must see sites before taking time to wander at leisure, popping in to small wine tastings and boutiques as you pass the afternoon by.
Piazza del Duomo
As the main square of San Gimignano, it is nearly impossible to come here and not stumble upon it – making for a great central starting point. Surrounding the square are thousands-of-years-old towers, so be sure to set aside a few euros to climb the stairs of one and take in those mesmerising views of the rolling hills and terracotta roofs.
The most popular tower to climb (and the tallest) is the Torre Grossa, priced at a reasonable 5 euros for entry. The entrance fee includes a visit to Pinacoteca Civica, a small but worthwhile painting gallery.
If you chance your visit to coincide with market day (Thursdays), you will find yourself amidst a colourful and lively atmosphere with a chance to sample local fruits and delicacies as you wander from one store to the next. The market is held in Piazza del Duomo, the cities main square.
Walk the streets
But most importantly of all: task yourself with simply wandering the streets, meandering in and out of small alleyways off the main shopping streets and discovering the picturesque beauty of this small Tuscan town.
Where (and what) to Eat!
There’s a reason so many visitors flock to San Gimignano beyond the postcard prettiness, and it comes in the form of the world’s best gelato (yes, it was actually awarded such a title). The owner, Sergio, is a master of gelato and has twice one the sought-after title of Gelato Champione, and believe me when I say the flavours are life-changing. I had the pleasure of meeting Sergio and discovering his two prized flavours: Crema di Santa Fina (cream with saffron and pine nuts) and Raspberry & Rosemary sorbet. Despite the unusual flavour combinations, let me tell you these are two choices you will not regret (especially when eaten together – in the aforementioned order!!!)
As far as great wines go, you’ll find some of the best here in San Gamignano and surrounds. Nearby Poggio Winery is a great choice for the flavours of Tuscany.
Be sure to try the local Pecorino cheese and don’t be afraid to try a few (you’ll walk it off one way or another!)
If you’re touring around Tuscany with the comfort of a hire car, you might want to consider a visit to nearby La Roccaia Winery, a short drive outside of town and offering fantastic local wines.
Towns & Cities to Visit Nearby
More on Tuscany:
I flew to Tuscany on a direct route with Qatar Airways. Flying from Australia, this meant just two flights to reach the Tuscan region: Melbourne – Doha & Doha – Pisa. I would highly recommend this route for travellers interested in basing their trip in Tuscany, a region that warrants at least one, but up to three weeks to discover. With thanks to Qatar Airways for welcoming me to experience Tuscany on this new direct route!