A few days ago, we found out that there was a big thunderstorm coming so we decided to hold off walking for a day.

Luckily, we were in San Gimignano, which is one of the most beautiful towns on the Francigena.

Kind of between Pisa, Florence and Siena, it’s on a hill surrounded by farmland and vineyards.

San Gimignano from a distance in the sun, with vineyards in the foreground

San Gimignano from the road leaving it, under cloudy skies, with fields in the foreground

A bit of history

The Francigena used to be a route for trade as much as it was for pilgrims. This brought a lot of wealth to the towns on it, and San Gimignano did better than most.

The towers

Around the 1200s, there were several wealthy, rival families in the town.

The way to show your family was the best was to build a tower.

At its peak, there were 72 towers in the town, the tallest of which was 700 metres high. But after a while, the local council said enough was enough and set a limit on how high you could build.

Most of the towers are gone now but 14 are still there.

The top of towers in piazza della erb, all at different heights

Towers in piazza della erb showing the buildings they all grow out of

The people who ran the place we stayed in said lots of buildings had their tops removed. The bottoms still exist but they just look like any other building in the town’s terraces now.


San Gimignano is full of alleyways leading to all kinds of wonderful places.

When you turn a corner, you can end up looking at something like this:

View across the countryside near town through an arch at the end of an alleyway

Clever floors

Almost every road or alleyway is sloped. To help with this, there are clever floors with ridges every foot or so to stop you sliding down.

Tiled floor which ends in a ridge every foot or so for walkers and a flat area in the middle for bikes


The vineyards around San Gimignano grow a grape called Vernaccia.

That means San Gimignano has its own white wine called ‘Vernaccia di San Gimignano’.

Apparently it’s inspired poets and philosophers over the years. Sounds like an elaborate excuse to get pissed to us.

Ice cream

One of the best things about San Gimignano is the ice cream from Dondoli Gelataria.

Signor Dondoli is a gelato world champion and it shows. You can tell from our faces:

Tom eating an ice cream from Gelataria Dondoli with a massive smile on his face

Roz eating an ice cream from Gelataria Dondoli with a happy but surprised look on her face