Welcome to the Medieval Manhattan! The small town of San Gimignano in the heart of Tuscany is without a doubt one of the most impressive travel destinations in Italy. The town’s medieval landscape is almost perfectly preserved and exudes a very unique flair.
Even observed from afar, San Gimignano presents a very special photo motif. The stony towers rise up into the sky and create an enchanting medieval skyline. Wow!
Perhaps you are planning to check off San Gimignano on your trip through Tuscany? Then you will find everything you need to know in this travel guide. From the most beautiful sights to the best things to do and our culinary recommendations – here are our tips for San Gimignano.
1. San Gimignano: Initial info, travel tips & FAQs
What awaits me in San Gimignano?
The most excellent medieval flair! Even from afar, you can tell what makes San Gimignano so special. The 15 majestic towers, visible far and wide, rise up into the sky. For this reason, the city carries the nickname “Medieval Manhattan”.
The historic town centre of the 7,000-soul town is unbelievably charming. Each corner is more photographic than the other and there are tonnes of photo opportunities and amazing things to do and see just waiting for you.
Is San Gimignano overcrowded?
Here we come to the less good news, to answer the question of whether San Gimignano really is as crowded as you read about everywhere. Unfortunately, we have to let you down: YES, San Gimignano is very touristy.
At the very latest you notice it when you make your way from the (very large) parking lot together with many others, past souvenir shops, towards the main square.
We let you in on two tips: Firstly, we would definitely recommend you don’t visit San Gimignano in summer (that actually goes for all of Tuscany). We were in San Gimignano during August one time and it was really uncomfortably full at that time. On our second trip during October it was quite noticibly more quiet and tranquil.
Secondly: Although San Gimignano is unfortunately an incredibly popular destination for day trips in Tuscany, it is particularly busy around midday and in the afternoon. (Unfortunately, that means you need to share the town with many other people during that time.) If possible, we recommend you visit in the morning hours or late afternoon instead, when has quietened down a bit.
How much time do I need to visit San Gimignano?
San Gimignano is a classic day trip destination. Even though we wouldn’t recommend it (because the area is simply far too beautiful for a quick day trip in and out), it is quite possible, in principle, to explore San Gimignano in just a few hours. The town is very small and manageable. You can visit all the main attractions in half a day.
We personally find the area around San Gimignano very beautiful and therefore, would recommend you rather stay a few days. (However, not in the historic centre but in the surrounding area. Our personal hotel tip follows at the end of this travel guide.)
San Gimignano is generally a fantastic home base for your Tuscan holiday, because it is located almost precisely in the middle of many popular travel destinations. For example, you can reach Florence from here in one hour of Siena in around 45 minutes.
2. San Gimignano Travel Guide: The Best Sights & Things to Do
Strictly speaking, the whole of San Gimignano is an attraction in itself. It’s not without reason that the town has been included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. The town landscape is really unique.
We recommend you simply let yourself drift through the old town. It is also definitely worth it to leave the main pathways and explore the small, much less frequented, side alleyways. In this chapter we reveal which sights, in our opinion, you shouldn’t miss out on.
Piazza del Duomo
Within the heart of the old town you come to one of San Gimignano’s main squares, the Piazza del Duomo. This square is a small work of art and really incredibly charming – especially if you are lucky enough to catch it without the crowds.
As the name suggests, San Gimignano’s cathedral is located in the Piazza del Duomo, the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta. It is known for its artistic wall paintings on its interior.
The Palazzo Comunale (also called Palazzo del Popolo) from the 13th century is also an immediate eye-catcher. The gigantic Torre Grosso rises up directly behind it into the sky. We let you know more about the (highly recommended) climb up further down in this travel guide.
Piazza della Cisterna
San Gimignano’s second famous square is located around the corner from the Piazza del Duomo, the much more spacious Piazza della Cisterna. Its name is also no coincidence: The square is named after the underground cistern, built in the 13th century.
The square, which is actually triangular shaped, is beautifully lined with medieval townhouses – each more beautiful than the other. A pretty stone fountain is located in the centre. The same applies here: If you are lucky and are able to visit the square during the morning or evening hours, you will love the flair.
Our tip: The Gelateria Dondoli is located on the outskirts of the Piazza. Be sure to grab an ice cream from there. This award-winning ice cream parlour is known to be one of the best in the world.
Of the approximately 70 towers that were once in San Gimignano, “only” 15 remain preserved today. One of the most famous of these, and definitely the tallest, is the Torre Grossa, which is part of the Palazzo Communale (the town hall). It rises 54 metres up into the sky.
The great part about it: You can climb up the Torre Grossa. The ascent up the approximately 220 steps is quite doable – only at the end you have to climb a narrow ladder to go through a small hatch to reach the viewing platform. But don’t worry, it’s not so bad.
Once you reach the top, a fantastic birds-eye view over San Gimignano awaits you. It doesn’t get more impressive in San Gimignano as from up here. Very highly recommended!
Insider tip: Torre Salvucci Maggiore
Even though word on the street is that the Torre Grossa is the only tower in San Gimignano you can climb, it’s not entirely true. Because: It is also possible to climb up the Torre Salvucci Maggiore (at certain times).
The special part about this tower: It contains a holiday apartment, which stretches over ten stories – and the 11th is the viewing platform. When the apartment isn’t occupied, external guests can also visit up the Torre Salvucci Maggiore.
The view is not as spectacular as from Torre Grossa, but still very impressive. Aside from that, it is exciting to take a peek inside this rather quirky holiday apartment.
Further things to do and see for more time
Of course, that was far from everything. In case you are staying longer than just one day, then here are some further highlights of San Gimignano for you.
- Sant’Agostino Church: This church is well worth seeing and a little off the tourist track. It is known for its painted murals. The adjoining church cloister also makes for a great photo motif.
- Rocca di Montestaffoli: The area around these historic castle ruins is now a large park. You can enjoy a fantastic view of San Gimignano and the surrounding area from the viewpoint there.
- Torre e Casa Campatelli: This palace of the Campatelli family from the 18th century has been converted into a museum. You can take a dive into the history of Tuscany within its historic rooms.
3. Eating & Drinking: Culinary Tips for San Gimignano
The best ice cream: Gelateria Dondoli
In our opinion, you definitely shouldn’t leave San Gimignano without trying the ice cream in Gelateria Dondoli. This small ice cream parlour in the main square (Piazza della Cisterna) has been crowned ice cream world champion several times.
As well as the classic ice cream flavours, they also have very special options on offer. You will want to try the entire range of flavours because everything sounds so delicious. In the main season you can recognise the shop from the large queue, which piles up in front of the store. It’s worth the wait!
Vegan evening meals: Agrivilla i pini
We stayed at Agrivilla i pini and therefore automatically enjoyed their 4-course evening meal. This can of course also be booked for external guests (the same goes for lunch). If the cost to stay the night is too high, then we can highly recommend a visit to the restaurant.
Only organic plant-based ingredients are served on the plate. The composition of the dishes is exquisite. Tip: Definitely make a reservation and it’s best to come while it’s still daylight. The view of San Gimignano is really fantastic.
Wine tasting Vernaccia di San Gimignano
The vines of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a special protected white wine variety, surround San Gimignano. If you would like to try a glass, then we recommend taking a visit to one of the wineries in the region. Our tip: We were guests at the Teruzzi & Puthod winery.
4. Our Hotel Tip for San Gimignano
The area around San Gimignano offers you an ideal home base for your Tuscan holiday. Why? Well, one point is that the landscape is very beautiful and the other is that it is strategically well-located for taking day trips to travel destinations (e.g. Florence, Siena).
We would absolutely recommend you search for accommodation in the surrounding area (rather than in the historic centre). Our choice was the Agrivilla i pini – an entirely special place that we would like to show you in a little more detail.
Vegan, organic & sustainable: Agrivilla i pini
If you’re searching for something special, you’re in the right place! The Agrivilla i pini is an exemplar of sustainable accommodation. The ecological concept flows through the entire place. This begins, for example, with the building materials: The walls are made of clay, hemp and rice husks, the floors are Tuscan terracotta.
In general, we really liked the natural flair. The Agrivilla i pini is located on a small hill west of San Gimignano. It is surrounded by the hotel’s gigantic garden and olive groves. Rare vegetable varieties grow here, which end up directly on the plate.
Speaking of culinary art: The Agrivilla i pini is a vegan accommodation. That means that you are only served plant-based meals here. (That starts with oat milk at breakfast and ends with the dessert alongside your evening meal.)
Anyone who is not yet so familiar with vegan dishes will quickly realise how varied it can be in the Agrivilla i pini. For example, a fantastic 4 course meal is created each evening.
Our conclusion: A really well-run accommodation with a sense of aesthetics and sustainability, although in our opinion the price level is a little too high for what is offered. If you would like to treat yourself for two or three nights, you are in the right place.
You can book the accommodation here: Agrivilla i pini
Disclaimer: Afilliate Links
This travel guide contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we receive a small commission. This does not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us!
Have you perhaps already taken a holiday in Tuscany and visited San Gimignano? We would love to hear about your experience or leave us your best things to do and tips for San Gimignano below this travel guide.