You’ve probably heard all about the famous Tuscan hilltop town of San Gimignano, but there are some things you don’t know. We’re here to help…
During a recent trip, we stopped along the way to enjoy the views of the ‘Tuscan Manhattan’ on the horizon – so called for the charming Tuscan village town’s collection of medieval towers that stand testament to San Gimignano’s long history.
These towers were originally built as a demonstration of a family’s powerful status. This was a time of violence in Tuscany, when battles were fought over wealth and power. When a family claimed a victory, they would build their tower higher, and when they suffered a painful defeat, they would lower it. Eventually, enough was enough and a treaty was declared, the towers being knocked down as a symbol of peace.
San Gimignano however was by that stage too poor to knock their towers town, and too insignificant for anyone to care if they did or not.
So it was that many centuries later, San Gimignano is one of the few places with Medieval towers still spearing up on the horizon. In fact, this town has the greatest collection of towers – 14 in all.
It is a wonderful Italian tradition, a ritual fervently upheld by most Tuscans, to go for a ‘passeggiata’ (relaxing stroll) on Sunday afternoons (and most evenings in the Summer months in fact). San Gimignano is a favourite location to mingle amongst locals out for an afternoon walk in one of Tuscany’s most charming hilltop towns.
Take a seat on the stairs of the Cathedral for some serious people-watching, before wondering up and around the streets for the most spectacular views of the towers from the secret look-out spot (up past the wine museum, in the back corner of a little park, up the steep narrow stairs, and…WOW!).
So just how do you pronounce San Gimignano? If you think of ‘James in wool’ – Jim in yarn, and you find it surprising that James is in wool, ‘oh!’, you’re almost (but not quite) there – Jim-in-yarn-oh! It’s close enough to be understood and much better than the ‘San Jim-ing-garn-ing-gn-no’ that many end up saying!
The correct pronunciation of San Gimignano would have you pronounce the gn as in ‘gnocchi’ (like ‘ing’ in reverse). So, San Jimi-gni-ano.
Don’t worry though, you don’t have to pronounce it to thoroughly enjoy a day out in Tuscany visiting San Gimignano.
And even if you can’t get your tongue around the name of the town, you can still get your tongue around one of the gelato’s that San Gimignano is famous for. Purportedly the best in gelato in Tuscany comes from the gelateria in the Piazza della Cisterna, aptly named Gelateria di Piazza. The owner, Sergio, is chief gelato-maker and is (almost) as unforgettable as the gelato he expertly prepares!
During the winter months, we have a great selection of private tours in Tuscany to choose from.
If you would like to immerse yourself in the Tuscan culture, we have a small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni too, as well as stopping for lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate. See the highlights of Tuscany in one spectacular day tour from Florence
Join us to have fun on an exhilarating bike ride from Florence to the Tuscan countryside, whizzing up and down the rolling Tuscan hills that form the stunning Tuscany countryside as you tour to a great Tuscan villa wine estate to visit their wine cellar for a Tuscan wine tasting, and dine at an award-winning Tuscan restaurant. During the warmer months, you may want to add a splash of extra fun to your trip with our unique City Escape: Tuscan Villa Swim experience.
Visit a Tuscan villa on the Taste of Tuscany: Wines of Nobility tour. Explore historic wine estates before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.
Stroll through the Tuscan countryside, join us for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.
If you would like to have a private guide accompanying you, we have private tours that cater to your every desire. From Florence (and Tuscany) to Rome, Venice to the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.
To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.