San Gimignano is a pretty medieval walled city in Tuscany, Italy, famous for its historic centre with beautiful towers (inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List) and great art. It is small enough to be effectively visited as a day trip from nearby cities like Siena and Florence, but it has a different atmosphere at night that many travelers find it worthwhile to experience.
The city is featured in the video game Assassin’s Creed II.
Buses leave from Florence’s bus station (next to the train station) hourly, and take 1.25 to 2 hours including a change in Poggibonsi for €6. From Siena there are €5.20, 75-minute bus rides (5 a day), again with a change in Poggibonsi. Volterra has 4 buses to San Gimignano every day, that take 2 hours and change in Colle di Val d’Elsa. Sunday buses are fewer and more crowded.
Buses leaving San Gimignano depart from Porta San Giovanni, with tickets sold at the bar just inside the gate or at the Tourist Info.
You may also arrive by car. You can’t drive inside the town walls, but there are several pay parking lots just outside the town walls, with free places further away. The handiest lot, Parcheggio Montemaggio, outside Porta San Giovanni, fills quickly, but they let 1 car in for every one that leaves, so you can wait (€2/hour). There is free parking on the side of the road going down from the turnabout.
The historical town of San Gimignano on the hill has no train station, but you can easily reach San Gimignano by taking a train to Poggibonsi (labelled “Poggibonsi-S.G.”) and then a bus from the Poggibonsi train station to San Gimignano. These buses cost €3.60 (2020) each way, leave every 30-40 minutes, and you can inquire for information, schedules, and tickets at the tourist information office which is located ahead toward the right as you walk out of the train station. As there is currently (November 2018) construction, buses leave from the main road and do not stop at the station.
If you are going from Florence (Firenze) to Poggibonsi, direct trains are not so frequent but you will find many connections to Poggibonsi via Empoli.
San Gimignano is very small (you can walk from the gate to the other side of town in 20 minutes), and you must disembark from your car or bus outside the city walls, in any case.
By shuttle bus
An electric shuttle bus goes all day from Porta San Giovanni to Piazza della Cisterna to Porta San Matteo. The fare is € 1, 2/hours, and you can buy a ticket at Tourist Info or the Tabacchi shop.
St. Augustine Teaching in Rome, fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli at the church of Sant’Agostino
The Piazza del Duomo, the town church’s square, is surrounded by thousand-year-old towers. The town’s 14 Towers are all that remain of the original 72, which were owned by the rich to stay safe when the town was sacked. After Florence took control of San Gimignano, most of them were torn down. The Piazza della Cisterna is a beautiful piazza with an old stone well (no longer used) in the middle. This is where a Thursday market gathers.
- SanGimignano1300, Via Berignano n. 17. 10AM-7PM. The visit to the museum is an ideal opportunity to learn about the architectural, social, and historical aspects of the middle Ages in Tuscany. Located in the heart of the city itself, the museum has a massive reconstruction of the city of San Gimignano dated between the 13th and 14th Century. Audioguides available. Adults €3. Children free.
- Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, Piazza Duomo, 2. Open Monday to Friday 9:30-7:30, Saturday 9:30-5:00, Sunday 12:30-5:30. The nearest to a duomo (cathedral) in this small city. Beautiful and contains a splendid series of frescoes on Old and New Testament subjects. €3.50, €5.50 combo ticket includes Religious Art Museum.
- Museo Civico and Torre Grossa. Apr-Sep 9:30AM-7PM, Oct-Mar 10AM to 5:00. The Museo Civico (civic painting gallery/museum) in the Palazzo Pubblico is small but has beautiful art inside. Includes Torre Grossa, which is the tallest tower in the city at 200 feet. You can climb the tower and get a good view of the city. €5, €2 audioguides.
- Porta San Giovanni. A gate at the southern end of the town’s 13th-century walls.
- Sant’Agostino. English mass at Sunday at 11:00, open daily 7:00-12:00 & 15:00-19:00. The church of Sant’Agostino in the northeastern part of the city contains a set of great frescoes on the life of St. Augustine by Benozzo Gozzoli and friendly, English-speaking friars to tell you about the church. Free, but €.50 inserted into a coin box will light up a painting.
- Rocca di Montestaffoli. Literally, a big rock, but a ruined fortress in actuality. A panorama of the Tuscan countryside can be seen from it.
- Thursday is market day in Piazza del Duomo
- Tourist Information is also in the Piazza del Duomo, which is open March to October 9:00-1:00 & 3:00-7:00, November to February 9:00-1:00 & 2:00-6:00. They offer free maps, a room-booking service, bus tickets, a free bag check, & €5, 2 hour audioguides for exteriors only. This is also where a walking tour starts from at 3:00 daily except Sunday, in English & Italian, March-October, for €15
- If you want to escape the crowds of tourists, there is a footpath that runs around the outside of town that is peaceful and affords some nice views of the countryside. It doesn’t seem to go all the way around town, but it’s long enough to work up a good thirst. Look for the signs with an icon of a hiker.
You will notice shops where free wine tastings are offered. If you consider the wines a good value, buy some bottles. You may find the wine expensive.
- Pantani Arte, Via San Matteo, 74 / Via San Martino, 32 , ✉ email@example.com. Two small studios full of the works of two brothers that use wood, watercolor and oil painting to tell the stories and carry on the ancient tradition of their region, Tuscany.
- Galleria iSculpture, Via San Giovanni 56 , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Contemporary art gallery featuring only art works of 24 Italian sculptors.
The main piazzas are crowded, but there are small alleys which have much cheaper restaurants.
- Trattoria Chiribiri, Piazza della Madonna. Open daily 11:00 to 11:00. Cheap, homemade pastas and desserts. Cash only.
- La Mangiatoia. 12:30PM-2:30PM & 7:30PM-10PM. Closed Tu. Wild game served by candlelight. Outdoor seating, near Porta San Matteo at Via Mainardi.
- La Grotta Ghiotta. Soup and sandwiches for there or to go, open daily 12:00 to 10:00, on Via Santo Stefano.
- Locanda di Sant’Agostino. On a square at Sant’Agostino Church. Cheap & cheery for lunch & dinner daily (closed January), usually filled with locals and away from all the daytrippers.
- Co-op Supermarket is great for picnic food, open Monday to Saturday 8:30 to 8:00, closed Sunday, at parking lot below Porto San Giovanni
Where to stay in San Gimignano
- Casa di Giovanna. Located on the main street, 100 metres from the main gate of the town. Double ensuite with breakfast – €72.
- Hotel L’Antico Pozzo, via San Matteo 87. 18 rooms, historical residence within the city walls. Wi-fi, air conditioning, garage on-demand, sky-TV, elevator. Single €95, Double €120-140, Superiors €180; Tax, service, buffet breakfast included.
- Hotel la Cisterna, Piazza della Cisterna. With 49 rooms, some with stunning views from the terraces. Buffet breakfast, elevator, restaurant with great view, discounts off season, closed January & February. Single w/bathroom €70, Double w/bathroom €98, Double w/bathroom & terrace €122.
- In-town Rossi Apartments Owned by same family as Ponte a Nappo, in town center. Double w/bathroom €55, fancier double w/bathroom overlooking town square €85. Same contact info as Ponte a Nappo farm
- Locanda il Pino Clean, quiet, & small with only 5 rooms, is run by a family over their restaurant inside Porta San Matteo. Double w/bathroom €55, no breakfast, parking right by gate on via Cellolese, far from bus stop, but fine if you have a car. Telephone: 0577-940-415
- Palazzo al Torrione Inside Porta San Giovanni, is quiet & handy, with 10 rooms but no full-time reception. Double w/bathroom €70-€110, breakfast €5-€10, family suites, cheap parking, at Via Berignano. Telephone: 0577-940-480 or Mobile: 338-938-1656
- Ponte a Nappo Run by Carla Rossi, who doesn’t speak English, but her son does, has comfortable rooms in a farm outside town. Double w/bathroom €70, apartments for 2-6 people €90-€180, breakfast €8. Air-conditioning, parking, 15 minute walk or 5 minute drive from Porto San Giovanni, on Via Vecchia. Telephone: 0577-955-041 or Mobile: 349-882-1565
- Relais Santa Chiara Hotel (Relais Santa Chiara), Via Matteotti 15 (400 metres from the historic centre). Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. On a hill just below the city walls. Set in private grounds with garden and swimming pool. €110-270.
- Le Terre Rosse Hotel San Gimignano (5 km from San Gimignano’s historical centre) , ✉ email@example.com. Hotel with 55 rooms and 4 apartments surrounded by a large park with pool. Wi-fi, air conditioning, sky-TV, safe. Double €95-120, Superiors €120-140; Tax, service, buffet breakfast included.
- Villasanpaolo Spa Hotel San Gimignano, Strada provinciale per Certaldo (Outside the walls) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Resort spa hotel overlooking San Gimignano with inner spa and pool.
- Hotel Leon Bianco (3 star hotel San Gimignano city center), Piazza Cisterna 53037, San Gimignano (Siena) , ✉ email@example.com. 3 star hotel sited in the main square of San Gimignano city center. The hotel offers rooms with panoramic view over the Chianti Hills and a panoramic terrace where the free breakfast is served everyday. It also features a relaxing jacuzzi on the terrace.
- Florence, the city of the Brunelleschi Dome of the Duomo, the Ghiberti Doors of the Baptistery, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi, the Bargello, the Ponte Vecchio and so many other things to see and do
- Siena, a larger walled hill city than San Gimignano though much smaller than Florence, is the city of the Palio and the Piazza del Campo, with its own spectacular Duomo and Baptistery and unique style of art
- Volterra, another of the ancient Etruscan cities, with Etruscan, ancient Roman and Medieval sights
- Monteriggioni, the small walled hill town that was Siena’s diehard Medieval ally in the wars with Florence
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