The famous Via Francigena, that crosses many historical towns in Tuscany, is an ancient historical pilgrimage route leading from Canterbury in the United Kingdom to the eternal city of Rome, the capital of Christianity.
Starting from the 11th century thousands and thousands of faithful pilgrims travelled in groups along the route, mostly on foot, on their way to Rome. All along this incredible itinerary, raised many trading activities like hostels, osterias, and refreshment stations, where the tired pilgrims could eat and regain their strengths before continuing their trip.
For all nature and history lovers, the Via Francigena really offers very interesting itineraries, that can be made either on foot or in mountain bike; they will let you discover some of the most beautiful medieval villages of Tuscany, while enjoying the magic of special places.
The medieval city of San Gimignano, amongst the most fascinating and suggestive destinations in Tuscany, rises right along the ancient Francigena route.
Its incredible towers, fortifications, medieval walls, palaces and laneways have perfectly survived to the passing of the time without great alterations.
Porta San Matteo in San Gimignano was the gate through which the pilgrims entered the village during the Middle Ages. This medieval village, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, boasts Etruscan origins but underwent its extraordinary development thanks to the Via Francigena. All the area was in fact characterized by the construction of new villages, castles, abbeys, churches, and monasteries, that you can still admire today!
Via San Giovanni and Via San Matteo, the two main town streets, were right part of the Francigena road, where people from all Europe used to pass for centuries.
You can imagine being one of those pilgrims, and follow Via San Matteo until you get to Piazza del Duomo; then you may continue walking until you reach the wonderful Piazza della Cisterna, once the commercial center of the village.
The Duomo is beautiful and really deserves a visit, it dates back to the 13th century and has walls decorated by splendid frescoes.
Right next to the Duomo, you’ll see the amazing Palazzo del Popolo, the city’s town hall, that hosts the fine Museo Civico, home to outstanding paintings.
The tower of the town hall, the Torre Grossa (great tower), is the highest tower of San Gimignano and the only one that you can climb up. From the height of its 44 meters, the tower dominates all the town and the spectacular surrounding Tuscan countryside; the panorama is breathtaking!
The streets of San Gimignano are lined with many lovely shops selling the fantastic local products, such as the Vernaccia wine and the saffron, but you can also admire charming pottery shops, art galleries, and art and crafts shops.
Autumn and winter are perfect to have a holiday in San Gimignano; with less people visiting the town you will truly enjoy its unique magical medieval atmosphere, for an authentic jump back in time!