San Gimignano, Italy

A poor lodging situation robbed us of a day in our recent Tuscany trip and thus robbed us of a proper visit to San Gimignano, so I can’t convey with any sort of authority what exactly you should see or do, but I can tell you that this town isn’t like the others you’ll see.  It isn’t Siena or Florence or Pisa in size, surroundings, or style.   It really is special and worth a visit.
 
San Gimignano sits up high overlooking the Tuscan valley below it.  This is the heart of Tuscany away from the dirt and chaos of the bigger cities.  Here you’re surrounded by olive groves and wineries where you can explore and taste your way though the region.  When people think of the beauty of Tuscany, this is it.

I recommend spending at least a day here although it would be easy to stay near here and travel around the region.  San Gimignano is close to Siena and Volterra which are both nice towns to visit.



“The arched opening in the wall led down a wide pedestrian street lined on both sides with shops and restaurants as far as the eye could see.  I supposed you could argue that the abundance of shops make for a rather touristy town and there were quite a few tourists, but instead of the usual array of junk pedaled to unsophisticated shoppers, there are wines and fancy sausages, pastas, olive oils, olive wood bowls, and exquisite pottery hand painted by local artists.”
“The town is stone.  Each building and tower and wall – all stone.  The streets are cobbled.  Meandering through the passageways at dusk I felt as if I was in another time entirely with very little to give it away especially on the quiet alleys that jut off the main road.  Stone doesn’t change much in a few hundred years.  This small town surrounded completely by a wall doesn’t know urban sprawl.  A farm house here and there sitting on the side of the hill.  A fruit stand.  Outside the walls there’s country as far as the eye can see.  Inside, it’s a town that looks so unchanged it’s as if the walls are telling stories.  They speak to you.  We walked until it was too dark even to take many pictures pausing each way in this main square with a well in the center.  The valley below nearly blackened except for a few clusters of twinkling lights.”

Shopping:   There isn’t a shortage of things to buy here, but this little shop though expensive, has an amazing collection of pottery designed and painted by local artists.  It also has letter openers in the shapes of various swords which make nice (if not dangerous) souvenirs.



Leoncini  
(The nice pottery and metal-ware shop)
Via San Gimignano 60/62
San Gimignano
Tel: 0577 942 086

Food:

Just within the city gate lies a gelato place that’s been in the same family since 1924, but existed even earlier.  Brunella’s father bought it then, but she and her sister run it now making each batch of creamy gelato right there on site. This is by far the best lemon gelato that I’ve ever had with nice chunks of lemon rind inside.  The place doesn’t look fancy, but the gelato is, portions are generous, and the prices are great!

Bar Caffe Gelateria
di Corsi Brunella & C.
Dolci Tipici Locali
Via S. Giovanni 124
53037 San Gimignano
Tel:  0577 940391

Wine recommendations from friends who drink:

  • “Make sure you try the Vernaccia while you’re in San Gimignano.  I don’t even normally like white wines but this stuff was fabulous.”
  • “Try the 1988, 1995, or 1997 Brunello.  Those are the last 5 star years, although 2007 is also supposed to be a 5- star, but probably isn’t released yet.”

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