The "skyline" of San Gimignano from the road to Volterra
Even so, it was not entirely at peace with itself. Competition between prominent families manifested itself in the construction of dueling towers, each trying to outdo the other. They served as granaries as well as status symbols. They were also sometimes used as defensive strongholds when the feuding bubbled over into outright warfare.
Today, San Gimignano is a very popular tourist destination because of its well preserved medieval architecture. It is a walled city with tall stone buildings and narrow streets. Automobile traffic is not entirely banned, but severely limited. Cars must be parked in the car park outside the main city gate, the Porta San Giovanni.
Towers viewed from outside the city wall
The Piazza della Cisterna features a thirteenth century cistern on a wide plaza flanked by towers. The Piazza del Duomo is home to the Duomo Collegiato or Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta which was consecrated in 1148. Also in the Piazza del Duomo is the Palazzo del Popolo (People's Palace) with its Torre Grosso (large tower), the tallest tower in the city. As you might expect, the city is largely dedicated to serving its tourist throngs. A large fraction of the old buildings have been converted to restaurants and shops selling a wide variety of tourist oriented merchandise from postcards and pottery to plastic swords. A number of the shops specialize in local wines and food specialties such as wild boar proscuitto.
Piazza della Cisterna
We stayed at the Hotel Bel Soggiorno which is located directly on Via San Giovanni just a half block inside the city gate. The rooms were large, airy and comfortable, and not terribly expensive. The view of the Tuscan countryside from the room was very pleasant.
Copyright 2002 Harry B. Rowe