Located in the hills of Val d’Elsa, San Gimignano is famous mainly for its numerous towers gentilizie.In past symbol of power and prestige of the rich middle-class families to which they belonged, now make this country an antique flavor of the most intimate and characteristic of Tuscany. A place where time stands still, that has kept intact its structure of a fortified village whose architecture or layout still holds to this day a treasure of history, art and culture today subjected to monumental constraint and the World Heritage Site.
The extraordinary spectacle that San Gimignano offers the visitor is represented by its towers. High and mighty, the nobles competed to build the highest tower, the strongest, the most beautiful; it represented a symbol of prestige to the point that families defeats in communal struggles could be imposed as a sign of supreme humiliation, ‘cimatura’ovvero the reduction in the height of its tower, which was thus raised to the level of the surrounding houses . In the middle of the thirteenth century the race for the tallest tower represented the externalization of a status attained by the House, which involved a bit ‘all the aristocratic families of the time; so that in the fourteenth century, the 13,000 residents of San Gimignano could claim the protection of a wall within which rose up as many as 72 towers. The highest of all is the tower of the Palazzo del Podesta, called ‘the Rognosa’ with its 51 meters in height exceeded only by the fourteenth century ‘Torre Grossa’ the People’s Palace, now the Town Hall, of less than 54 meters. Monumental center is the Piazza del Duomo. On this square are The Collegiate Church of St. Mary, dates back to 1056 in which are kept masterpieces by Taddeo di Bartolo, Benozzo Gozzoli, Lippo Memmi and Bartolo di Fredi, the wooden statues by Jacopo della Quercia depicting the Annunciation and the ‘ Archangel Gabriel. A real jewel is the Chapel of Santa Fina, the patron saint of San Gimignano, refined Renaissance construction of Giuliano and Benedetto da Majano, decorated by Domenico Ghirlandaio.Alla Collegiate annexes are the Museums of Sacred Art and Etruscan, with paintings, sculptures and sacred vestments and archaeological evidence from Etruscan ruins nearby. In the Piazza del Duomo is the Palazzo del Podesta, built in 1239, which stands for tardoduecentesca Chigi Tower, which stands on the side and for Rognosa tower above it; even the Town Hall, which houses the Museum and Art Gallery, with its ‘Torre Grossa’. The facade bears the coats of arms of the Podesta and retains the gallery from which they communicated with the public. In the courtyard of the building there is a cistern tardotrecentesca and loggia a fresco by Sodoma depicting Sant’Ivo. In the contiguous Piazza della Cisterna, the center of the village, there is the medieval cistern that supplied water to the population. It is bordered by ancient buildings: Palazzo Ardinghelli with thirteenth-century towers, House Ridolfi, Mansion Rockets, Palazzo Tortoli-Treccani presenting a truncated tower and Palazzo dei Cortesi, with his ‘Devil’s Tower’. Besides the towers San Gimignano also had a fortress, that of Montestaffoli, built by the Florentines in 1353, the highest point of the city, in control of the town. They were then the same Florentine, aged Medici to dismantle it. From the ruins of the fortress, which still retains part of the walls and a tower, you can admire one of the most picturesque views over the area and the surrounding countryside.