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Best things to do in San Gimignano, Italy

The medieval town with the unmistakable silhouette scattered with skyscrapers is an absolute must among Italian villages. Romantic like Tuscany, however different, pretty as a painting, still carrying its legacy with pride, San Gimignano is the unforgettable pearl of Tuscany with medieval remains. So, let’s dive into the very best things to do in San Gimignano, Italy.

This travel guide contains all you need to discover and experience San Gimignano. The best visiting sites, day trips in the area, recommended tours, some eating tips and suggested restaurants. San Gimignano seen with our eyes and lived with our hearts.

Let the journey begin!

Panorama of San Gimignano
The one and only San Gimignano!

Travel to San Gimignano! It is an unmissable tourist attraction in Tuscany. The medieval town fascinates with its tall towers, narrow cobbled streets and stone buildings!

Taste the local specialties! From homemade pici (a type of pasta) to vernaccia (the local wine), there’s no way to bypass gelato, some of the best in the world!

Feel the local spirit along with the intense tourist vibes! Observe the skyline contoured by the towers of medieval Manhattan, San Gimignano’s nickname!

Content

Good to know
How to get to San Gimignano
Our trip to San Gimignano
How many days should I plan for San Gimignano?
When visit San Gimignano
Travel Guide: The best of San Gimignano
Other ideas for visiting
Eating recommendations in San Gimignano

Good to know

The well-preserved medieval Manhattan has a unique atmosphere. Placed in the heart of Tuscany, in the province of Siena, San Gimignano is the perfect combination between the postcard images of the region and the old charming towns.

After reaching its independence, between the 11th and the 13th century, the nobility and upper middle-class merchants of San Gimignano built many fortified towers (probably 72). They symbolized wealth and power, just like in Lucca or Bologna. Today, we only have 14 remaining tower houses that remind us of the prosperity this setting once had.

The historic centre of San Gimignano is part of the UNESCO heritage because of its outstanding value. Besides the famous towers, the town kept its medieval air and atmosphere, being crammed with palaces and notable masterpieces of Italian art.

  • San Gimignano is a major tourist attraction. Despite its small size, there are enough things to do in San Gimignano: walk in the piazzas, visit churches, museums, and panoramic points. As well as peaceful country houses where agrotourism is among the best choices of pure unaltered food and natural habitat. Needless to say, Tuscany is at its best here.
  • Stroll along the narrow cobbled streets and fall in love with the tiny shops selling delicacies, such as boar or all sorts of pecorino. Climb the Torre Grossa and explore the Duomo. Wait in line till you get the favourite flavour of gelato,  spend the evening in piazza della Cisterna and soak in the nice atmosphere.

Day trips and tours

  • The most classic destination is beautiful Siena, just around one hour away. You can also visit Florence or Pisa, not too far either. Anyway, if you dream of staying closer, Volterra is a good option, a chic medieval setting covered by green rolling hills. Try to include on your list Certaldo and Monteriggioni, small but charming Tuscan villages. All in all, Chianti area is always a good vacation choice. Nature lovers should go to Colle di Val d’Elsa (28 km), where the “Sentierelsa – Trail” along the turquoise water is a must.
  • If you opt for one of the tours suggested by GetYourGuide, you have many options. If you plan to do something unforgettable from Florence, you have a Tuscany Day Trip with Optional Lunch and Wine, or you can follow the wine route and go to the Chianti Villages, San Gimignano and Wine Roads. If you prefer a more active vacation, observe the Chianti area by E—Bike (wine tasting included). If your base camp is in Siena, choose a day tour to San Gimignano and Volterra. You can also book a Chianti tuk-tuk tour with wine tasting from San Gimignano.
Piazza della Cisterna in San Gimignano
Piazza della Cisterna almost empty

San Gimignano
Enjoying San Gimignano

How to get to San Gimignano

The good part is that you have multiple options to reach this small town of 7,000 souls that attracts so many.

  • By train – Unfortunately there is no railway station in San Gimignano. If you plan a train trip (as we did), you have to take a regional train that takes you to Poggibonsi (oftentimes written as Poggibonsi-San Gimignano), and from there you will find regular bus shuttles. A ride takes around 25 minutes and costs 2.60 euro.
  • By bus – You can take a fast bus (line 131) that takes you from Florence (Santa Maria Novella bus depot) to Poggibonsi. Then, you take the bus to San Gimignano. If you travel from Siena, take line 130/A from the train station to get you to the desired destination.
  • By car – This is the simplest and most scenic ride of all. If you rent a car, you have the option to drive at your own pace, choose the fastest route, or maybe the most panoramic one.
  • By organized tour – There are lots of tours that include San Gimignano. This is the traditional day tour that takes you from Florence to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.
Enjoying the view is one of the best things to do in San GImignano
Panoramic view over San Gimignano

Our trip to San Gimignano

By the time we had reached San Gimignano, the fourth destination on our Italian trip (after Milan, Florence and Lucca), my teenage daughters were already exhausted. On the one hand, it was tremendously hot, while on the other, we had already done a lot of visiting (some boring museums included … for them).

Fortunately, I soon found a way to put them on the right track. Among the things to do in San Gimignano, it has on offer some of the best icecream you can eat (more detailed info later in the blog), so we gulped down lots… and has enough open-air places, such as piazzas and viewpoints. Less museums, more icecream… a total win-win situation.

San Gimignano is a chill place.

traffic lights
You wouldn’t expect traffic lights
One of the pretty streets in San Gimignano
One of the many pretty streets

How many days should I plan for San Gimignano?

Considering the size of the town, for most of the things to do in San Gimignano generally one day will do. You can visit the main attractions even in half a day if you are just passing by.

However, you can also make San Gimignano a base camp for other destinations in the vicinity, and spend more nights/days in the pretty town.

Old hotel
An old and traditional hotel

When visit San Gimignano

Medieval Manhattan is a very touristy destination, which means that it is crammed with tourists in summer. When I visited it, in summer 2022, it was more crowded than I remembered. Besides, there aren’t so many places to hide from the sun, in case the summer months are canicular.

As a result, the best seasons to visit would be late spring, early summer and autumn (April-June and September-October) when the number of tourists has halved, and the temperatures are pleasant.

Landscape and olives
Landscape and olives

Travel Guide: The best of San Gimignano

This is my travel guide with the best things to do in San Gimignano.

Piazza della Cisterna

It is the main square of the town. Its history goes back to the 13th century and the name comes after a huge cistern of water found at the centre of the place. Historically, this piazza was the beating heart of the city represented through the people, events, festivals, and happenings. The square is surrounded by nobility houses and medieval towers and is paved with brick. There is a medieval stone fountain right in the middle.

This piazza is the backbone of the city marking the meeting point of the two main roads: the Francigena and the road leading from Pisa to Siena. Even nowadays, this is the place to be in San Gimignano.

Visiting Piazza della Cisterna is one of the best things to do in San Gimignano
The lively piazza

Torre Grossa (+ Palazzo comunale and Pinacoteca)

Price: 9 euro full ticket (includes Palazzo Comunale, la Pinacoteca, la Torre Grossa)
Official website:
San Gimignano Torre Grossa

A must-see and a must-climb, the tallest tower (54 meters), as the name suggests, is one of the best things to do in San Gimignano. At the end of the 220 stairs, your faces will be caressed by the breeze. At the top, your efforts will be rewarded with a spectacular view over the city and the nature surrounding it.

The climb is not too bad, not even for those with fear of heights. There is a small hatch at the end, but you’ll be over in a couple of seconds.

The ticket also includes the Palazzo comunale (or del Popolo) where you have Dante room, that pays tribute to the visit of Dante Alighieri to San Gimignano. The Pinacoteca is a small collection of Sienese medieval and Renaissance paintings with biblical motifs. The latter is basically in the tower.

View from the Torre Grossa
One image from the tower
Dante room
Dante room in Palazzo Comunale

The Duomo (Duomo Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta)

Price: 5 euro or 13 euro for San Gimignano Pass including Musei Civici and Complesso della Collegiata
Official website: The Duomo

The main church of San Gimignano is made to the pattern of Florentine churches, only at a smaller scale. You can easily recognize the black and white arches and pillars, typical of Tuscany. The outside of the duomo is perfectly integrated in the architectural landscape but is not spectacular.

However, the inside is appealing to the eye, and it is interesting to know that the beautiful vivid colours that you see are the original ones. The Duomo tells the story of the Old and New Testament through its frescoes that you can follow from the far left of each wall all the way to the right.

Insider tip!: Like in most churches, you’ll need a scarf to cover bare shoulders. If you don’t have, you’ll get a robe at the entrance for free.

Duomo of San Gimignano
Duomo of San Gimignano
Duomo of San Gimignano on the inside
The dome on the inside

Piazza del Duomo

The piazza right in front of the Duomo is truly charming. Flanked on the sides by the Torre Grossa, Palazzo Comunale and the Duomo, it stood as the political and religious centre of the town. Nowadays, together with Piazza della Cisterna, very close, it counts the heartbeats of the city. Sitting on the stairs of the piazza and taking pictures here are some of the most touristy and relaxing things to do in San Gimignano.

Stroll the alleys of the old town

When you walk along aimlessly and without any rush, you discover fabulous things. For example, this is how we got to see the viewpoints of San Gimignano or some old hidden houses with small, picturesque gardens. I like it when I see traffic lights in the most unexpected places, that seem totally devoid of humans. It is only on hidden alleys that you can get a glimpse of how the inhabitants truly live, see some people chitchatting, or carrying a bag with groceries…

If you are up for the more touristy part, you will probably like the small shops and boutiques, delicacy stores, wine bars, cozy cafés, and restaurants.

A typical street
A typical street
Beautiful garden
Beautiful garden

Torre e Casa Campatelli

Price: 7 euro
Official website:
Casa Campatelli

Beauty and history lovers should experience Torre e Casa Campatelli. Situated in one of the towers, Campatelli House is today a museum that offers a lesson about the life of the middle-class people of the late 19th century. You can observe the luxurious living room and furniture of the Campatellis. The museum is also a review of the history and legends of medieval San Gimignano.

Insider tip!: You’ll love the digital technologies that make Casa Campatelli a real pleasant visit.

Casa Campatelli
The dining room in Casa Campatelli; photo: Lucio Lazzara

Other ideas for visiting San Gimignano

Not big in size, there are many other things to do in San Gimignano. Here are some less explored, but worth exploring.

Torre Salvucci Maggiore offers the full experience in the Tuscan town. Placed in the Piazza del Duomo, the tower can be visited only when it is not used as a holiday accommodation. Yes, that’s right, this tower is fully equipped to offer medieval history fans the total package: 360 degrees panoramic view and a vertical stay on all floors.

Chiesa di San Lorenzo in Ponte is a small hidden church from the 13th century where you can admire beautiful frescoes.

Don’t hesitate to go to as many panoramic points as possible. Some are only reachable by car/longer walk, as they are out of town in the vicinity of Santa Lucia, while others are within San Gimignano. You can try via degli Innocenti or Rocca di Montestaffoli for optimal panorama, but being on a hilly area, this medieval setting boasts many more.

View from San Gimignano
Panorama teaser
Skyscrapers
Skyscrapers

Eating recommendations in San Gimignano

Contrary to other Italian cities, the food in San Gimignano has a somewhat different taste. This is due to the fabulous land the town lies on, but mostly to the love for the organic that you can encounter all over the place. And on your plate. San Gimignano has a cult for nature, thus if you are interested, you should look for agriturismo, a farm that produces its own crops, prepared naturally to meet even the pickiest needs.

Agrivilla e pini is the typical charming organic and vegan place. Agriturismo Mormoraia is another enchanting spot. Usually, in such situations you need a car, as these farms are outside the main town. (these agriturismo places also have fabulous rooms and swimming pool!)

It is important to know that you have to book your dinner in advance both for agriturismo or classic restaurant. We had an issue with our dinner here, due to the incredible number of tourists. Some considered to be the best places are: Linfa (quite pricey, but sophisticated as it has one-Michelin star), San Martino 26 (features an innovative cuisine).

There are more down to earth restaurants with a spectacular panoramic view, such as: Le Vecchie Mura offering a panoramic view, La Mandragola, or La Mangiatoia. We finally had dinner that day at Osteria delle Catene, it was great and the service very good.

Dinner at Osteria delle Catene
Osteria delle Catene
Delicacy store
A delicacy store

Despite San Gimignano’s much smaller size compared to other tourist spots, the quality of the restaurants has imposed a high standard, reflected both in the fine dining, quality of produce and service.

The same is true for icecream. San Gimignano and the best gelato go hand in hand. You’ll easily understand it when you see people queueing in Piazza della Cisterna in front of Gelateria Dondoli. It is recognized for producing some of the best gelato in the world, as this shop won the supreme title twice. Of course we tried it…

But just 50 meters away, in the same piazza, there is another gelateria, called dell’Olmo, who pretend to have the best icecream ever. So, we gave it a try as well. I have to tell you that for the three of us, Cremino flavour was the best ever. I have to reckon, to me, they are number one. If you try, you can just share your opinion.

Arguably Tuscany’s greatest white wine, the Vernaccia is the most famous one. At least in San Gimignano. Made from the grapes of San Gimignano hills, this golden-hue wine is a must while having dinner on a terrace.

Gelato at Dondoli
Gelato at Dondoli

Have you already been to San Gimignano?  Did you enjoy your visit there? Or maybe you discovered some interesting places worth sharing with other travellers? I am really looking forward to your additional tips.

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