San Gimignano is a Tuscan town called sometimes the Manhattan of the Middle Ages. It gained the nickname from the stone towers that dominate the landscape of this small town. They're real medieval skyscrapers!
Since the town is small it can be easily traversed in all direction, allowing to admire the fabulous buildings (not just the towers), narrow streets, and from higher points - the beautiful scenery. There is definitely no shortage of souvenir shops here, "gelaterias" - ice cream parlors and restaurants. While traveling around Tuscany you definitely can not miss this place!
A little bit of history:
The towers were built by wealthy residents in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. They fulfilled primarily defensive functions, but also emphasized the importance and wealth of the owner. The city flourished during the Middle Ages, thanks to its convenient location on the trade route between Florence and Siena. The fall has been caused by the relocation of the trail and the plague in 1348. Ironically, thanks to those circumstances, the monuments of San Gimignano, including several towers survived till the present day. The most famous monument is the old cathedral, now collegiate of Santa Maria Assunta from the twelfth century, with frescoes by Bartolo di Fredi. In the center there are two squares: Piazza della Cisterna (the name comes from the twelfth-century urban tank), and Piazza del Duomo.
Monuments and places to visit:
- Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta - three-nave Romanesque church, consecrated in 1148. In 1456, has been extended by Giuliano da Maiano by a transept and several side chapels. Inside you should see the Last Judgement fresco by Taddeo di Bartolo from 1393 and The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian Benozzo by Gozzoli;
- Palazzo del Podesta - a palace built in the years 1239-1337, located opposite the church. Inside the Dante's hall (Sala di Dante) there is a beautiful Maesta fresco painted in 1317 by Lippo Memmi. Adjacent to the palace there is the city's highest, 51-meter high tower;
- San't Agostino church - built in 1280-1298, located on the north end of town. The interior is decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from the life of the church's patron Saint Augustine;
- Museo d'Arte Sacra - sacred art museum exhibiting the sculptures and paintings from the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The same building also houses the Museum of the Etruscan Art.
Good to know:
In the very center of the town you can not use a car, but you can park in one of the parking lots nearby. There are sometimes problems with this, but it is worth trying.
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