San Gimignano: tall towers and heavenly wine

San Gimignano - View from Casolare di Remignoli

San Gimignano in the morning haze, seen from Casolare di Remignoli


We arrived in Tuscany late one night, much too late to see anything. But early next morning, at the patio breakfast table of our cosy farmhouse inn, Cat, my youngest, pointed to some towers on a hill in the distance. This, we were told, was San Gimignano. The towers looked elusive and mysterious and we were keen to have a closer look.

This Tuscan hilltop town is famous for two things:

San Gimignano

The tall towers of San Gimignano

Founded more than 2 000 years ago by the famous civilisation of the era (and area) known as the Etrusci or Tusci (origins of the name Tuscany), this was an independent and wealthy town for centuries. And what better way of potently showing off your wealth than by building tall towers?

Then came the Black Death. Like Norway, San Gimignano was hard hit and forced to surrender its independence and possessions to another power. For Norway, that other power was Denmark. For San Gimignano, it was Florence.

IMG_2823 IMG_2822

The town had 72 towers, 14 of them are still standing. Not bad, considering most other towns, such as Florence, have hardly any left.

San Gimignano

San Gimignano

San Gimignano Local ladies, San Gimignano

If you haven’t been here, but think it looks familiar, chances are you either like video games – Assassin’s Creed is all about exploring medieval San Gimignano, or you’ve seen the film Tea with Mussolini. Remember Dame Judi Dench and the other expat women, trying to save frescoes from destruction? The frescoes can be seen inside the Duomo below.

Stairs at the Duomo, San Gimignano

Vernaccia di San Gimignano

The town’s other claim to fame is the white wine made from the local Vernaccia grape. There’s really only one word to describe this wine: Heaven!

Museo del Vino, San Gimignano Museo del Vino
The friendly sommelier at Museo del Vino

Museo del Vino, San Gimignano

Big sister sampled the wine (mum did too, but only a little bit, since she was driving), while little sister found better things to do; climbing statues and chatting with friends at home…

IMG_2794 On the phone in Tuscany

Souvenirs for sale, San Gimignano

We had fun strolling around, browsing the shops, enjoying the views, having lunch and stopping frequently for runny but yummy gelato. But San Gimignano is popular on the tourist trail. This was August, and although it wasn’t too crowded, it was still difficult to get a feel for the place. And it was difficult to see the towers properly; we were simply too close. Looking out on the hills of Chianti, we decided San Gimignano was even better seen from our inn. The peace and quiet out there made it easier to let fantasy flow, to imagine the history and intrigue.

Chianti views from San Gimignano

That evening, looking at the towers from our garden, the sense of mystery and magic that had eluded us in town returned. Sometimes, it’s good to pull back a little.

That said, it would be interesting to live in this old town flat for a bit, say in February.
San Gimignano facade

Do you adore Tuscany? Have you been in San Gimignano?

unesco logo

The Historic Centre of San Gimignano is UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.

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  1. Jarmo 13 June 2012 at 1826 - Reply

    Looks beautiful, and you are right, those towers looked familiar, should’ve guessed it was from Assassin’s Creed 😉

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 June 2012 at 1013 - Reply

      I’m not usually very interested in video games, but this one has me curious, I must admit. That – and one about Carassonne.

  2. Victor Tribunsky 13 June 2012 at 1921 - Reply

    Sometimes people call this town “Medieval Manhatten” 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 June 2012 at 1012 - Reply

      I’ve heard that. Maybe instead one should call Manhattan modern-day San Gimignano…

  3. Natasha von Geldern 14 June 2012 at 0845 - Reply

    Yes and yes. Love these pictures of San Gimignano, I was there in April and I remember lots of purple wisteria. And yes the wine is heavenly 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 June 2012 at 1014 - Reply

      San Gimignano is probably lovely in April, less crowded, nice temperature, the scent of spring flowers in the air…

  4. RyukyuMike 14 June 2012 at 1028 - Reply

    Great photos and I’d prefer the towers over the wine, ant time !

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 June 2012 at 1118 - Reply

      Not a wine drinker, are you, Mike? 🙂

  5. Nick Lewis 14 June 2012 at 1355 - Reply

    Love it, love it! We went to Tuscany just about a year ago and visited San Gimignano whilst we were there. It was beautiful but coincided with an amazing lightning storm overhead and heavy rain! We took refuge in one of the cafes just off the main Piazza. Would love to go back!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 June 2012 at 1421 - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by. And wow, a lightning storm between those ancient towers, must have been quite the experience.

  6. Lisa 14 June 2012 at 2053 - Reply

    Beautiful photos – Tuscany is a place that I would love to visit and that last photo does look like the perfect place to stay!! Not sure that I fancy checking out a video game but watching Tea with Mussolini sounds like a nice way to see more of San Gimignano.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 June 2012 at 0205 - Reply

      It’s a sweet, little film with a great cast.

  7. I LOVE Tuscany. I only spent a week there last spring, but I definitely couldn’t forget it. I didn’t make it to San Gimignano though, only to Firenze and Pisa. Can’t wait to go back!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 June 2012 at 0206 - Reply

      One does need plenty of time in Tuscany, that’s for sure. So much to see.

  8. InsideJourneys 15 June 2012 at 0116 - Reply

    Love it! Definitely a place worth adding to the list.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 June 2012 at 0207 - Reply

      One of those places one really has to see in life, I think.

  9. Nancie 15 June 2012 at 1617 - Reply

    What a gorgeous town! and good wine too…I’m there!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 17 June 2012 at 0017 - Reply

      Kinda wish I was there now 🙂

  10. Sabrina 15 June 2012 at 2005 - Reply

    I love Tuscany. Beautiful area. Thanks for all the info about San gimignano. I had heard about it, but have never been.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 17 June 2012 at 0017 - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Sabrina.

  11. Andrea 16 June 2012 at 0238 - Reply

    I love Italy so much! I have studied there for 2 semesters a couple of years ago, and it is such a beautiful country! I really like those gothic cathedrals and fortresses, the italian gothic revival is outstanding in Europe, it is much more artistic than for example in Germany or Britain. And I also like those towers, I think they call them ‘campanile’, I mean the towers nest to the churches with the bell. You have to feel very lucky to be able to get there. I wish I could again…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 17 June 2012 at 0018 - Reply

      Yes, I think you’re right about the campanile.

  12. Jenna 17 June 2012 at 0701 - Reply

    I have been there and thought it was a special place. I was there in January, so there were very few, if any, other tourists that day. We climbed one of the towers for amazing views and got a closer look at the town’s Medieval art. However, I’ve heard that in the summers, and even most of the year, it can quite different. I enjoyed what you said about pulling back a little. Nice to think of the views of the town that way, the same way that people visiting/invading would have seen it.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2012 at 2338 - Reply

      January would be magical, I’m sure. Crisp and quiet.

  13. Cathy Sweeney 18 June 2012 at 0109 - Reply

    I’m sure I would adore Tuscany — just haven’t been there yet.The towers do indeed look mysterious. What an interesting history and I am all for trying heavenly wine!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2012 at 2339 - Reply

      I’m sure you’d like it, too, Cathy 🙂

  14. Leigh 18 June 2012 at 0440 - Reply

    I’d join you in February. I’ll bring some good books, enjoy the views and the wonderful wine. Sounds oh so relaxing.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2012 at 2342 - Reply

      Books, views and wine. Can’t ask for more.

  15. Turkey's For Life 19 June 2012 at 1225 - Reply

    Not surprised this place has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. It looks heavenly – as does the wine!! 🙂 Never been to Tuscany but we were in the Lazio region at the beginning of May and are now keen to see more of Italy. most pleasing on the eye.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2012 at 2341 - Reply

      Italy is indeed beautiful – and has great food, just like Turkey 🙂

  16. Max 3 January 2013 at 1450 - Reply

    I can recommend a wonderful accommodation in San Gimignano: . It’s in the centre of San Gimignano with a splendid panoramiv view.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 January 2013 at 1807 - Reply

      Thank you. Looks like a lovely house.

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