Day 3 started with a taxi transfer (included in the cost) and a choice of two walks to San Gimignano.
We chose the Pignano variation, through the village of San Donato. The restaurant in San Donato lets you taste wines and, of course, sells them. The Fattoria San Donato (Fattoria means “farm”) also sells wine, oil and honey. Already, the walk sounded promising. Headed towards another Fattoria di Castelvecchio, over riverbeds, up tracks to Castelvecchio. They are starting to excavate Castelvecchio, a long abandoned medieval village. From there, we walked via San Donato to San Gimignano.
Part of our written directions after San Donato: “….watch out here if a lady in curlers jumps out of the farm and asks you round to the barn next door for degustation…she will try to sell you some of her old 1993 stock of Chianti which she says is very mature and has a warming bouquet. In other words, it has gone off (turned) and probably tastes more like sherry than Chianti.”
The first sight of San Gimignano is amazing. Perched on a hill with 14 grey stone towers, it looks exactly like the movie (Tea With Mussolini) that inspired my visit. Etruscan in origin, and was one of the most important trading centers in Central Tuscany. In 949, San Gimignano was incorporated as a city and the first set of city walls were built in 998. A second ring of walls was built in 1199. Quarters were always tight within the walls, and homes were built above their shops. It is a mixture of styles: Sienese Gothic, striped Pisan Romanesque and Florentine early Renaissance. (Not that I could tell you the differences between these!)
views of San Gimignano, Italy
Edicts limited the size of lots, and heights of towers. The really wealthy people bought adjacent lots and built twin towers there. For more information, visit the San Gimignano website for more details about the town. There is so much to see, and San Gimignano has been designated by UNESCO as one of the 379 wonders of the world.
The “must sees” are the Piazza Della Cisterna (our hotel was right on this square), and the Piazza del Duomo. In the Piazza del Duamo is the Collegliata di Santa Maria Assunta (church), very old palazzi and seven towers. You can climb to the top of many towers.
Hotel La Cisterna overlooks the medieval square, and location was perfect. There are mobs of tourists in Tuscany (and here, especially). We chatted with County Walkers, and Backroads groups, who were using the same hotel as us. (Sherpa’s price is much less than theirs.) There is also one of the best gelatarias (ice cream) in Italy on the Cisterna Square. This is my kind of place.
This area is also known for a lovely Vernaccia white wine. Dry, refreshing and as famous locally as Chianti. This is the speciality of the San Gimignano vineyards. We bought and drank some. How much more enjoyable can it be to walk into a spectacular town, hot…dusty…tired, and be invited into various wine shops to sample their wares? It doesn’t get much better than this….