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Known as the City of 100 Towers, the Ancient Hilltop Town of San Gimignano Is a Must-See Destination



5 January 2023

Throughout the whole of Italy, there are a multitude of fascinating ancient villages tucked between valleys, hills, and mountains, and medieval hilltop towns that have been around for thousands of centuries: Their history, culture, and architecture withstanding the test of time throughout all these years. Revered by locals and wholly popular with tourists, they are treasured and admired, and for those that reside within them, a great sense of pride and appreciation is felt when speaking about the places they call home.

Within the region of Toscano (Tuscany), many notable hilltop towns define the Tuscan countryside. The juxtaposition of imposing, stone medieval architecture against natural, hilly landscapes captivates the senses as you approach their prominent vistas: Their quaint, historical village centers and vibrant communities are both charming and intriguing. And, one very popular, ancient hilltop town is a must-see destination when visiting the region of Tuscany: Its commanding presence can be seen for miles around the countryside.

The "City of 100 Towers"

Located between the beautiful city of Siena, and the artful province of Florence, the striking hilltop town of San Gimignano rises up from the hilly, Tuscan countryside as powerfully as Poseidon rises from the sea. Founded by the Etruscans, its fascinating history dates back to 63 B.C., according to its legendary origins. And, while the medieval hill town of San Gimignano began with a total of 72 soaring towers amidst its ancient territory, it quickly earned the nickname of the “City of 100 Towers.” Fast forward to present day, and 14 of these stone fortresses are still visibly present and standing proud within its medieval landscape, with only one of them accessible for the public to climb: The Torre Grosse.

And, while some equate its towering stone faꞔade and architectural landscape to the skyline in Manhattan, New York, this fortified hill town in the heart of Tuscany is far more visually impressive and historically intriguing. Its well-preserved, historic center is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its two wondrous city squares — the 11th-century Piazza del Duomo, and the 13th-century Piazza della Cisterna — have themselves become major tourist attractions and fascinating points of interest for both historians and archaeologists. Within the fortified center of Piazza del Duomo stands the ancient Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta (Collegiate Church of St. Mary of the Assumption), with all its stunning medieval artwork and breathtaking murals and frescoes filling every corner of the Basilica.

San Gimignano: The Master of Wine and Spice

When visiting Tuscany, it quite literally would be blasphemous not to partake in either wine tours, wine tastings, or sitting in a medieval piazza under the Tuscan sun sipping wine that has been cultivated and created locally. Don’t let the antiquated scenery of San Gimignano fool you. This ancient hilltop town is also quite famous for its beautiful, white Vernaccia wine, and bold, red Vinsanto wine. Their origins are as medieval as the hilltop town itself: Both wines are unique in taste, both extremely appealing to the palette.

In addition to its wine, Tuscany is also known for its agritourism and abundance of the expensive spice: Saffron. And, for spice lovers, the “City of 100 Towers” is the leader in its production: Growing, nurturing, and producing organic saffron for as long as San Gimignano has been in existence. Its official DOP status makes the Saffron of San Gimignano a protected destination of origin, and one that is dutifully earned. So, whether you’re a lover of natural beauty, art, history, architecture, vino, or cooking, the small walled fortress of San Gimignano has much to offer to its visitors, making it one of the top tourist destinations in the Tuscany region, and one that should not be missed.

This article originally appeared published here by the same author.

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