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San Gimignano


San Gimignano, the town of beautiful towers, lies in a picturesque position on a hill dominating the Val d'Elsa, inhabited since the times of the Etruscans. This town went through the most prosperous period of its history towards the end of the Middle Ages when the urban civilisation flourished.

Its squares that are guarded by ancient buildings, its narrow and shady alleys and the soaring slender towers all create the character of this stunning town. Only 15 of the original 72 towers are intact.

In the centre of the town is a square called Cisterna which is surrounded by ancient and towered palaces. In the middle, on massive stony steps, is the Cirsterna, an elegant public fountain built in 1273. The square of the Cathedral (Duomo) is the oldest part of San Gimignano. The mighty towers of the Salvucci, the Mayor's palaces and the simple, bare façade of the Collegiata, flanked with the Torre Grossa (Big Tower) and the 13th century new Palace of the Mayor, make this square one of the best preserved scenes of medieval architecture.

San Gimignano is small enough to be explored in a day (there is virtually no traffic) but it also makes a good base for country walks. It's a delightful place to shop with two main streets lined with speciality outlets selling almost everything. Several shops also sell the local wine, and the tourist office sells posters of local sights.

Eating out in San Gimignano is wonderful. You will no doubt discover classical Renaissance dishes on some menus as well as typical Tuscan dishes.

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