San Gimignano, the magical hilltop Tuscan town famous for its towers is my second home. With all my travels in Italy San Gimi is always home base. Arriving back there heals me, leaving there makes me a bit tearful, every time. Perched on a hill between Florence and Siena, watching over the fields and vineyards, it is the perfect medieval town.
If you find your way to beautiful San Gimignano, here are 10 things you need to do:
The fresco cycles are spectacular and date back to the 13th century.
The Duomo is in the heart of town, so you can't miss it.
2. Eat an artisanal gelato.
|Late night gelato in Piazza Cisterna, San Gimignano|
The gelato store in the neighboring Piazza Cisterna makes fresh gelato each day in a variety of sensational flavors. Try raspberry with rosemary, or any flavor with lavender. Actually, it's probably impossible to find a flavor that isn't fantastic. Sometimes there are lines across the piazza with locals waiting to get a scoop or two of this delicious homemade gelato.
Wander back through to Piazza Duomo and sit on the steps while you eat your gelato. Look up and you will see my apartment looking right back at you!
3. Walk down to the medieval font.
|one of my travelers in June 2016 exploring the font on a rainy day|
The history of this idyllic mountain town is just wonderful, and there is just so much to see. Most people don't make it down to the font. Every time I've been we are the only people down there having a look.
You can walk around San Gimi forever and not get bored. The light hits the walls and the towers differently every minute of the day, so it always looks new. Wander through the medieval arches and alleyways, explore the little piazze, window shop and walk from one end of town to the other. Wander off the main shopping street and explore all the little neighborhoods. This little town is magical!
The views from the walls of San Gimi are absolutely breathtaking. A glass of local Sangiovese in the late afternoon at one of the little restaurants along the wall, with a view of endless vineyards, olive groves and fields that have been farmed for centuries. The view is so lovely it will haunt you forever...
|late afternoon glass of wine along the wall, taking in the view in San Gimignano|
6. Visit iSculpture San Gimignano
This one is a fantastic find in a region full of historical sculpture my friends Francesca and Patrick have built a tremendous business and a wonderful gallery featuring only contemporary art created by Italian artists.
The works are fresh and exciting and new, and make for an all encompassing experience housed in an ancient, historical building. The gallery is deceptively huge, and is the perfect showcase for both small and gigantic pieces. It's one of those places that keeps drawing you back in.
The highest point of town at the San Matteo end affords you the craziest, most sensational views as the sun goes down.
8. Eat Pizza at Il Trovatore
Summer evenings spent on the patio at Il Trovatore with pizzas cooked in their giant wood burning oven and jugs of local wine just cannot be beaten.
Tuscan pizza is nothing like pizza stateside. It's fresh and light and explodes win flavor. Don't expect it to be drenched in tomato sauce and wallowing in melted cheese like it is here - this is pizza the way it was meant to be eaten.
9. Enjoy Prosecco in the Piazza
|late afternoon spritz and prosecco in the Piazza Cisterna, San Gimignano|
My favorite time of day is Prosecco o'clock in the piazza. That late afternoon /early evening glass of prosecco siting at one of the outdoor restaurants that line the piazza Cisterna watching the early evening light hit the walls of the palazzi, people watching as the tourists leave for the day and the locals come out.
It's absolute magic.
10. Be there for market day
|buying fresh local cheeses and prosciutto at the San Gimignano market|
Every Thursday San Gimi wakes up to market day. The market takes up all of the Piazza Duomo and most of Piazza Cisterna.
|the local ladies buying their fruit and vegetables at the weekly market|
From local cheeses and meats to fruits and vegetables, from Italian leather handbags and belts to clothes and shoes, from housewares to fabulous Italian tablecloths and napkins, there is so much to look at and buy!
Plan on buying lunch from one of the food trucks and eating it sitting on the Duomo steps.
(The leather handbags are the same as the ones you will find in San Lorenzo market in Florence. I have always found them to be cheaper at the San Gimi market. Expect to pay between 40 and 50 euros for an incredible handbag that will last a lifetime.)
I hope you take time to visit San Gimignano - it is so lovely!