San Gimignano Things to Do
Monuments and Museums
Piazza della Cisterna
One of the most attractive sights in San Gimignano, the square, an exquisite example of medieval architecture, is beautifully paved with bricks. At the center of the square is a well that gives access to the underlying cisterna (well).
The Duomo or the Collegiata and the Saint Fina Chapel
Built in the 12th century, the Collegiata, still referred to as the Duomo by locals, opens onto a beautiful square connected to Piazza della Cisterna. Filled with art that remains from its days of importance as a cathedral it is a treasure of altars, chapels, freizes, frescoes and paintings that were commissioned from the most famous artists by San Gimignano’s citizens.
Here can be seen a beautiful Romanesque interior with tiger-striped arches and a galaxy of gold stars, the wooden statues of Gabriele and Annunziata by Jacopo della Quercia and decorating the naves, 14th-century frescoes with scenes from the Old and the New Testament and the Last Judgement. In the Cappella di Santa Fina, one of the most beautiful chapels of the Tuscan Renaissance, a glorious cycle of frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio describes the life of a local girl named Fina, who became the town’s patron saint.
Palazzo del Popolo with the Civic Museum and Torre Grossa
The Palazzo del Popolo (People’s Palace) built between 1288-1323, is the home of the Town Council and the Civic Museum. Decorated with great frescoes and furnishing dating from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, it is also the home of the town’s tallest tower -- Torre Grossa. From the balcony above the entrance the Podestas (persons responsible for the Municipality) took their oaths. From here, a superb view of the towers, the ancient fortress, several piazzas, and the Tuscan landscape can be seen.
This beautiful 13th-century Romanesque-Gothic church retains the characteristics of its original architectural style and it is as rich in art. The High Altar is dominated by "The Coronation of the Madonna and the Saints", painted in 1483 by Piero del Pollaiolo. Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes, “Episodes from the life of St. Agostino” adorn the Chancel and frescoes by Sebastiano Mainardi, painted in 1500, can be seen on the Chapel walls and vaults. The church’s terracotta floor is the work of Andrea della Robbia.
Via San Matteo
A section of the Via Francigena, the medieval highway to France that was largely responsible for the flourishing wealth of the town, is lined with palaces and towers and is a true representation of medieval San Gimignano.
The Museum of Medieval Torture
Axes, swords, chastity belts, spiked collars, guillotines, the rack, an Iron Maiden, and even a primitive electric chair – torture devices used in the Middle Ages – are housed in the Torre del Diavolo (Devil’s Tower).
Fortress di Montestaffoli
Built by the Florentines in 1353 this tiny, crumbling fortress was destroyed by Cosimo de'Medici. Though today only one of the original towers remains, its courtyard continues to attract street artists and musicians. On summer nights there are weekly screenings of movies.
The tower, 54 meters high, dominates the Palazzo del Popolo. Finished in 1311, it is decorated with stone coats of arms of the podestà (historical local authority figures).
The Museum of Sacred Art
The Museum, created in 1915, includes works of art such as wooden sculptures dating from 14th century, psalm books and the best craftsmanship pieces from convents and the Duomo, as well as donations by private citizens.
Etruscan Museum, the Spezieria dello Spedale di Santa Fina and the Raffaele De Grada Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art
On exhibit are archeological findings from digs in the surrounding area and especially from Ranza and Cellole. Objects of common use, such as plates, bowls, vases, buckles and necklaces can be seen along with the cinerary urns in a style similar to those in Volterra. Also in this same complex is the Spezieria dello Spedale di Santa Fina, a little museum that demonstrates techniques of the antique pharmacy, and the Raffaele De Grada Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, a small space for exhibitions.
La Porta delle Fonti (Springs’ Gate) and the Medieval Wash-Houses
The Porta delle Fonti opens onto the countryside and leads to the ancient washhouses once used for drawing water and washing linen. The construction, which dates back to the 14th century, consists of ten Romanesque and ogival arches and was built upon the site of a 9th century well. The Porta delle Fonti was part of the second circuit of walls.
Film Festival, summer
Held in the summer at the open-air cinema, the film festival is located in the public park Rocca of Montestaffoli.
International Festival of Saint Gimignano July-August
A series of performances and events including poetry, work, theater, ballet, classical music concerts, and movies.
Ferie delle Messi and the Giostra dei Bastoni
This centuries old pre-harvest festival showcases the Knights of Santa Fina as they joust and parade through the city streets. Vendors selling crafts, local food specialties and antiques line the streets, while fireworks and musicians round out the weekend's entertainment.