Located on a hill at 324 metres, between the valleys of Elsa and of Era, it has been populated by the Etruscans during the emperor period. Situated between the roman street Clodia and the famous and antique Francigena trail, San Gimignano always played an important role as military and strategic centre. Originally under the power of Volterra, it soon had a great development in Xth C. thanks to its commercial influence and geographical position. The first nucleus were built on the Tower hill, previous residence of the bishop of Volterra and on the Montestaffoli hill, where later on the powerful fortress was built. The battles against Volterra began in 1130 and about 20 years later St Gimignano was practically independent. The city immediately allied with Florence against Poggibonsi and Colle Val d'Elsa. In 1207 the new town wall was built (including the hamlets of
S. Matteo and S. Giovanni), and nowadays you can still admire 3 original doors: the Goro arch (N), the Becci arch (E), St. Matteo stone arches (W).
In 1229 the rich merchant town hall was still with Florence strengthening the alliance. It seemed that the towers, during this period, were 72, today you can see 14 perfectly complete. In 1251 S. G. built the second town hall including the new quarters of Montestaffoli with its 2 main doors on Francigena trail: S. Giovanni and S. Matteo (1262) and 2 secondary doors of Quercecchio and S. Jacopo. These high and heavy stone walls came from the Pecille cave, had squared defensive towers. This town wall is still very well kept with all its original doors. Between XIIIth and XIVth C. the city reached its maximum splendour, then some internal fights between the families Salvucci and Ardinghelli, made it totally surrender to Florence in 1353. Therefore the need of new fortifications: a new fortress, a high tower, 2 squared towers; later in 1470 they built 5 round and fortified towers. It didn't last long.
After Siena lost against Florence in 1555, the fortress and many other structures had been destroyed. Worth visiting: Town hall palace, its Court, Dante's room, Civic Museum and Picture-gallery. Moreover S. M. Assunta Basilica, S. Fina Chapel, Archeological Museum, S. Agostino Church, S. Bartolo Chapel, Holy Art Museum, Ornithological Museum and S. Francesco room.
Churches of San Gimignano
* Church Collegiata.
Pratically it's the Dome of San Gimignano, completed in 1148. It is considered one of the highest expressions of Tuscan Romanesque style. It has three naves whose interior is completely frescoed. Particularly relevant are the 'stories of Santa Finà by Domenico Ghirlandaio and the 'San Sebastiano' by Benozzo Gozzoli. Among the painters of the Sienese school's: Bartolo Fredi painted the 'Old and New Testaments'. The 'Universal judgement ' is instead by Taddeo Bartolo. Among the sculptures the 'Annunciation' on wood by Jacopo della Quercia and marble works of Benedetto and Giuliano da Maiano.
Loggia of the baptistery (Oratorio di San Giovanni). Located on the left side of the "Collegiata" and remained unmodified until 1632 when it was closed and trasformed in a "oratory". With this transformation, the inner wall, could be painted by masters as Domenico Girlandaio, Giuliano di Martino Cetti and Sebastiano Mainardi. It became even a Baptistery, when the baptismal font sculptured by Giovanni di Cecco in 1379, was located in there. Then it was reported on its original use, demolishing the cladding wals, which they closed the lights of the columns. The frescoes are now visible from outside.
* Church of St. Augustine.
This church contains numerous frescoes, especially the Chapel of Holy Bartolo (by Benedetto da Maiano), stories of the life of Saint Augustine (by Benozzo Gozzoli), and other remnants of frescoes, paintings and tables several authors (Benozzo Gozzoli, Piero del Pollaiolo, Pier Francesco Fiorentino, Vincenzo Tamagni, Sebastiano Mainardi).
* Parish of Santa Maria.
Located in Cellole, a little location of San Gimignano is part of the Diocese of Volterra. The first news about it come from the 1109th y.b.C., underwent several reconstructions of between XII and XIII century, then consacraed in 1238. It has three naves ending in 'a semi-circular' apse. The inner decorations are made up with tipical motives of val d'Elsa valley, which decorating a serie of blind arches. Inside, we can notice a baptismal font in trvertine stone, decorated with frecoes dating back to 1300. The facade was restored in the twenties and is decorated with travertine rafters.
* Sanctuary of "Maria Santissima Madre della Divina Provvidenza".
Probably in the period between 1475 and 1499, Pier Francesco Fiorentino painted a newsstand with the image of Mary feeding the sacred child. Over the years the newsstand and the fresco were forgotten. Neglecting it, the newsstand was soon covered of brambles and plants. At the same time, across the valley underwent a period of severe poverty due to prolonged drought. It is said that in April 1668, Bartolomea Ghini, a mute woman from her birth, was around grazing their sheep. On that day she began to cry thinking about her social condition and extreme poverty even to her poor conditions in which he was reduced. In that juncture, the shepherdess saw a beautiful Lady which asked her the reasons for the tears. The shepherdess was able to respond and the Lady said to go home that she shall find the pantry full of bread, the orci filled with oil and wine cellar barrels, filled with wine. At that time Bartolomea realized that she spoke she run to her house screaming joy. The parents realized that a miracle happend: their daughter could speak the house was full of food. They heard directly by Bartolomea the story of that special day. Obviously the news was really fast to reach all the farer corners of the land. and all the pastors of the area went in the same spot with the hope of meeting the woman to get as well, something to eat. They only found but only a heap of brambles so they decided that remove them to see what was underneath. Today the scratch of roncole still marks the holy image. when they found the painting they found out as well who was the Lady Bartolomea meet before! They decided to name it as "Mary Mother of divine providence". Later the spread of double miracle, the area was filled with pilgrims and in just two years, the newsstand arosed around the sanctuary (1670). In 1923, with some delay century, the church was a high-sanctuary Diocesiano. 1944 in a way there was another miracle. The withdrew German toops, mined the curch but the wall where was located holy image, was saved while rest of the church was almost totally destroyed. The sanctuary was rebuilt after several discussions under the previous model and completed in 1949, Oct. 19. In 2000 the shrine was chosen as a location for the jubilee session of the indulgence granted.
* Church of Quercecchio ed ex-Oratorio di San Francesco.
It houses the ornithological Museum. The church dates back to the sixteenth century and is the ancient seat of the confraternity of Santa Fina.
* Church of ex Conservatorio di Santa Chiara, San Gimignano.
Paced 1448 where was located the hospital of the Holy Cross where 1500 nuns of Santa Chiara were transferred. In 1700 it was finally turned into a women conservatory, it was purchased by the city and changed into a museum. It is 'the only decorative example of neoclassical art of the city. Some important paintings in the gallery come from this complex.
* Church of Madonna dei Lumi.
Inside the walls of San Gimignano, it is located in Via San Siovanni south, and dates back to 1600. Much of the interior decorations date back to late 1700. In 1922, it hindered the passage of S. John door, it was partially demolished and resized.
* Church of San Bartolo
Inside the walls of San Gimignano, it is located in S. Matteo street. Cited in documents dating back to 1196, it is dated to 1173. It 'a simple brick church with the roof supported on wooden trusses.
* Church of San Francesco
Inside the walls of San Gimignano, it is located in San Giovanni street. Built in the mid-1500s, of the original building remains only the travertine facade while the rest has been changed over the centuries.
* Church of San Jacopo al Tempio
Inside the walls of San Gimignano, dates back to the thirteenth century, although it said that it was built in 1906, after the first crusade in the holy land, by the veterans. The building has many curiosities: on the travertine-lintel in front, there is a badge of the Templars Order. On the top brick, there is the rose-window and inside small shelves, were placed 13 ceramic basins coming from notrh Africa. Inside the curch, there are three important frescoes dating the fourteenth century: The 'Madonna with Child between Saints James Major and John vangelist', the 'Crocissione' and 'deposition in the tomb'. The first attributed to Memmo Filippuccio and second and the third probably the Master of the Strauss Madonna which probably also painted the 'San Giovanni Battistà on the left pillar. On the right pillar there is a painting by Pier Francesco Fiorentino, the 'San Jacopo Major'.
* Church of San Lorenzo al Ponte
Inside the walls of San Gimignano, dates back to 1240. ist name is connected to the presence of a drawbridge that linked the castrum to the bishop's castle. Originally on one side was a porch that was later closed and converted in oratory. You will surely note on the right wall of the porch, 'Our Lady of glory'. The only original part it's her face by Simone Martini, while everything else was repainted in subsequent restorations of 1413.
* Church of San Pietro
Inside the walls of San Gimignano, in the center of the city it belongs to the Diocese of Volterra. The original church was probably the smallest and the original part, dates back from the thirteenth century. Even here, there are frescoes of the same time you should see like the ' Annunciation ', the' Madonna Enthroned between two holy 'el' 'Adoration of the Magi', of Memmo of Filippuccio. Finally, the 'Madonna taking walks handing Jesus, between San Paolo and San Giovanni Battistà, by Frederick.
* Church of San Girolamo
Inside the walls of San Gimignano, it was founded in 1337 but has suffered numerous and repeated changes over times. There are still some frescoes to see, in particular, from the Florentine Renaissance, the 'Madonna with Child, San Benedetto and San Girolamo, San Giovanni Battista, San Giovanni Gualberto '.
* Spedale di Santa Fina
Inside the walls of San Gimignano was founded in 1253 and has suffered numerous and repeated changes over time rather than for beauty as above for practical needs and adapt to the purpose. The facade has a plan the late Renaissance with the lunettes painted by Mainardi with 'Saints Bartolo, Gimignano, Peter Nicholas and martyr'. The two sculptures of San Gregorio and Santa Fina go back, to 1498.
* Convent of Monte Oliveto
Do not confuse it with Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Siena. What we are talking about, it is located in the town of San Gimignano and was founded in 1340, then subsequently expanded in 1548. Rich in Renaissance furniture, there is a cloister of the'400, a beautiful porch and the tomb of Antonio Salvi (1411). To a crucifixion of 1466 by a student of maestro Benozzo Gozzoli.
* Civic Museum
* Diocesan Museum
* Spezeria di Santa Fina-Etruscan Museum and Modern art gallery.
* Ornitologic museum
* Museum of torture: to see, carefully, because the feeling. There are a lot of tools used through the centuries to give horrend punishments to the people.