San Gimignano, often called Medieval Manhattan because of its stone skyscraper towers, is a lovely walled hill town in Tuscany. It is definitely a tourist hot spot, which can also drive up prices, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. If you look hard enough, you can certainly enjoy this magical gem on a budget.
Here are five free or cheap things to do in San Gimignano.
1. Climb the Tower. San Gimignano originally started with about 80 towers, but mainly due to war and plague, the number is now reduced to fourteen. The Torre Grosso, is the only tower left open to the public and coincidentally, it is also the tallest. But, really, you only need one that provides a spectacular panoramic view of the Tuscan countryside. Admission is 5€ and is included with the combo ticket to visit the Museo Civico.
2. Head for the Churches. If you love frescos – you’ve come to the right town. Hidden inside the simple facade of Sant’Agostino are loads of gorgeous 15th century frescoes by Sebastiano Mainardi and Benozzo Gozzoli – and you can see them for free. The Duomo, which is officially called the Collegiata because there is no reigning bishop, is also littered with frescoes from the 14th century, but charges an admission 3.50€.
3. Window Shopping. Weave in and out of the alleys of the main square, under the arches and you’ll find the cutest shops and boutiques built right into the ancient stone walls. Specialty food, wine, ceramics, fabrics and art are all on offer, and wandering in and out is free and interesting, thought you’ll certainly be tempted. And if you’re lucky enough to visit on a Thursday, you’ll enjoy a market in the Piazza del Duomo.
4. Enjoy La Rocca. Visit the ruins of the ramparts, which are now a green space with olive trees, for an equally spectacular view of the landscape someone should be charging a fortune for. In the summer months there is an outdoor cinema.
5. Sample the gelato. Right in the center of Piazza della Cisterna lies one of the greatest gelaterias in Tuscany. The world-renowned Gelateria di Piazza offers up a plethora of creative flavors like saffron and pine nut, pink grapefruit with sparkling wine, chocolate with sour cherries -even a Vernaccia sorbet. Prices range from 1.80€ for one scoop to 5€ for five scoops.
6. Head for any the medieval gates. San Matteo, San Giovanni, or San Jacopo, They are both fascinating and picturesque. They have a very distinctive medieval look to them, which translates well in photos. If you stick around long enough, you’ll certainly bear witness to transport vans eking though the stone arches with mere centimeters of room to spare on each side and nary a scratch! Un miracolo!
7. Drink the Vernaccia. San Gimignano is known for its dry white wine of the region, called Vernaccia. You can grab bottles all over town, but if you don’t want to splurge, you can enjoy a glass with your meal at any of the trattorie within the walls or at one of the wine bars. Trattoria Chiribiri is a favorite, or if you’re interested in a tasting, head to Enoteca di Vinorum , where they have 20 wines-by-the-glass on offer.
What are your favorite free or cheap things to do in San Gimignano?