This little hilltop town perched atop the Tuscan mountains is often called Medieval Manhattan, due to its many skyscrapers that seem to be longing to touch that Tuscan sun.
72 towers were originally erected within the city walls, but fewer than 15 remain today, still a sight to behold.
Tour buses barely scrape by each other, entering the stone arches to the city. Tourist can be seen crossing themselves, with wide eyes and gapping mouths, staring in amazement that they have arrived unscathed.
A popular day trip from Florence and Siena, hoards of tourists descend on San Gimignano and people clutter the streets for hours on end.
But, as the tourists pack up and leave, shopping bags in hand, a hush falls over the town. The silence is deafening. Without the sea of human figures blocking them, lovely stone facades that hide trattorias, shops and businesses line the small cobblestone alleyways and await your arrival.
This is the San Gimignano you want to see. This is the San Gimignano I love.
There is a cisterna in the center of town.
La Collegiata, for fresco viewing . And even a Torture Museum?!
Climb the old fortress, known as La Rocca and watch the sunset over the picture perfect Tuscan landscape below. There is a movie cimena here in the summer months.
And if its views you desire, climb the Torre Grosso, one of the towers still left standing, for a 360 degree panorama of the countryside.
The lush green hills, both terraced and not, dotted with terracotta homes and cyprus, unfold for miles around you and are eventually swallowed up by the big blue sky.
Even our room from the hotel had a spectacular view of the landscape
and of neighboring yards, complete with grapevines.
Vernaccia, the white wine created locally, is available in the wine shops and on every trattoria menu in town. Regional olive oil and saffron are also specialties of the area.
When darkness falls, magic happens. The lights from the hotels and cafes flood the piazzas and bring a glow to the stone walls in the town, and with it, a special feeling. We had a lovely, homemade, authentic Tuscan dinner in a romantic haven called Trattoria Chiribiri.
We were lucky enough to spot a hot tub on the terrace of our hotel, the Leon Bianco. Not caring if it was meant for guest use, we snuck up one night, hopped in and enjoyed a little spa under the moonlit and star studded sky.
When we awoke the next morning, expecting to walk onto the serene piazza, we were pleasantly surprised to see the square transformed, albeit temporarily, with a vibrant street market.
Don’t be fooled by the small size of the town, it has enough charm and activities to keep you busy longer than you would expect. Many just come for the day and leave, but for a true feel and to experience all it has to offer, stay on passed the tour buses and spend at least one night.
Hotel Leon Bianco
05 77 94 12 94
Piazza della Madonna
05 77 94 19 48