Julie Italy 16 Comments

San Gimignano is famous for its hilltop setting and medieval towers. In fact, one of the best things to do on a visit to San Gimignano is to climb one or more of these towers for a breathtaking view of Tuscany. It’s also a wonderful place to go shopping and dine on local foods.

San Gimignano is one of the most popular towns to visit in Tuscany. It’s easy to get to, fun to explore, and included on a lot of tours in Tuscany.

On our first visit to Tuscany, San Gimignano was one of our favorite towns. Climbing the towers and exploring the side streets formed some of our best memories from that visit to Italy. On our second visit, we toured some new places. This article is a culmination of both of those visits.

The Towers of San Gimignano

San Gimignano is also known as the Town of Fine Towers. There are more medieval towers in San Gimignano than any other Tuscan hill town.

There were once dozens of towers throughout town, but these were brought down by wars and other catastrophes. The towers were built by wealthy merchants as “tower houses,” to display their power.

Fourteen towers still stand today, and you can tour one of these houses (or rent it out) on your visit to San Gimignano. It’s called Torre Salvucci Maggiore and we have photos from the top of the tower later in this guide.

The tallest tower is called Torre Grossa, or fat tower, and climbing to the top of this tower for the view over the town is one of the best things to do in San Gimignano.

Wondering how to say San Gimignano? It is pronounced Sahn Jee-Meen-Yah-Noh.

San Gimignano Italy

San Gimignano

Best Things to Do in San Gimignano

1. Porta San Giovanni

Like many Tuscan hill towns, San Gimignano is surrounded by medieval walls. To enter the town, there are several openings in the walls, also called gates.

Most likely, your introduction to San Gimignano will be the entrance through Porta San Giovanni. This medieval gate sits at the southern end of town, and just outside of this gate are parking lots, the bus stop, and the place where many tours of San Gimignano begin.

Porta San Giovanni

Porta San Giovanni

Other gates include Porta San Matteo (northwest end of town) and Porta S. Jacopo (northeast end of town).

2. The Historic Center of San Gimigano

The historic center of San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several piazzas make up this city center.

From Porta San Giovanni, walk up Via San Giovanni. This picturesque street is lined with boutique shops, small cafes, and more than one Torture Museum.

San Gimignano Street

Via San Giovanni

As you approach the center of town, you will arrive at Piazza della Cisterna, a wide square that is surrounded with more shops and restaurants. It gets its name for the large well that sits in the square.

Piazza della Cisterna

Piazza della Cisterna

Just around the corner from Piazza della Cisterna is Piazza del Duomo. From here, you can visit the San Gimignano Cathedral (Duomo di San Gimignano) and Palazzo Comunale.

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo


San Gimigano Photo

Duomo di San Gimignano and Torre Grossa

If you continue the walk through town, you will exit Piazza del Duomo on Via S. Matteo, which takes you to Porta San Matteo.

3. Gelateria Dondoli

This famous gelateria sits on Piazza della Cisterna. Why is it so famous (and why is the line so long?)

Gelateria Dondoli

Gelateria Dondoli won the Ice Cream Championship of 2006/2007 and 2008/2009. Sergio Dondoli, the Gelato Master, won the Master of Art and Craft award in 2016. This gelateria has been featured in numerous news articles and visited by a long list of celebrities.

On the menu are traditional flavors, but you can also try Champelmo (pink grapefruit and sparkling wine), Dolceamaro (cream with aromatic herbs), and Vernaccia Sorbet.

Have fun picking your favorite flavors!

4. Duomo di San Gimignano

The Duomo, also called Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, stands on Piazza del Duomo. The present church dates back to 1148. With its black and white marble, it somewhat resembles the interior of the Siena Cathedral and Orvieto Cathedral, just on a smaller scale.

This church is famous for its frescoes, which depict scenes from the Old Testament cycle, the Last Judgement, and the Annunciation. The interior is beautiful and well worth a few minutes of your time while in San Gimignano.

San Gimignano Duomo

Inside Duomo di San Gimignano


Duomo Fresco

Fresco in Duomo di San Gimignano

5. Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall)

Palazzo Comunale, also known as Palazzo del Popolo, is also located on Piazza del Duomo. It was built in 1288 and later enlarged, becoming the seat of the government of San Gimignano in the 14th century.

Palazzo Comunale San Gimignano

Palazzo Comunale

Inside of Palazzo Comunale you can visit the Civic Museum, the Pinacoteca, and climb Torre Grossa (the fat tower).

In the Civic Museum, visit Sala di Dante, a room that was named for Dante Alighieri, who visited San Gimignano. This famous room contains the fresco Maestà by Lippo Memmi.

The Pinacoteca is an art gallery featuring works of art by Florentine and Sienese artists. The masterpiece is the altar piece that was created by Pinturicchio in 1511. In the outdoor courtyard, you can see frescoes of the coat of arms and a fresco created by Sodoma.

San Gimignano Pinacoteca


Torre Grossa is the tallest tower in San Gimignano. To get to the top, you’ll climb 218 steps. Your reward is 360° views of the town and the rolling hills of Tuscany.

San Gimignano Photo

The view from Torre Grossa


Overlooking San Gimignano

Overlooking Piazza della Cisterna


Piazza del Duomo San Gimignano

Looking down on Piazza del Duomo


Julie Rivenbark

The Civic Museum, Pinacoteca, and Torre Grossa are all included on one ticket. Get hours and pricing on the official website.

6. San Gimignano 1300

This very small museum contains a recreation of what San Gimignano looked like in 1300. On a visit to this museum, you will also learn about the Via Francigena (a pilgrimage route that connected Canterbury, England with southern Italy) and why so many of the towers collapsed.

San Gimignano 1300

San Gimignano 1300

A visit here lasts about 15 minutes. Learn more on the official website.

7. Torri Salvucci Maggiore

Torri dei Salvucci, if it is open, is one of the best things to do in San Gimignano. This tower house is also an apartment you can rent, making it the most unique place to stay in San Gimignano.

If it is not rented out, for a small fee, you can visit this tower and climb to the top for another spectacular view of San Gimignano. It is much shorter than Torre Grossa (there are only 143 steps to the top), so it is easier to get to the top and offers a slightly different vantage point of the town.

As you climb through the tower, you visit different levels of this tower house. You’ll see the kitchens, living area, bedrooms, sitting room, and bathrooms, all on different levels. The header photo for this article was taken from the top of this tower.

Torre Grossa San Gimignano

The view of Torre Grossa


Tuscany Italy

San Gimignano Italy Photo

Another view from Torre Salvucci Maggiore

We loved this experience, not only for the amazing views, but to be able to see what it is like to live in a tower house. Keep your fingers crossed that it won’t be rented out on your visit, or make your reservation ahead of time, and have it all to yourself.

If you want to stay here, you can make a reservation on Booking.com or learn more here. The property has 3 beds, 2 kitchens, 2 bathrooms, and your own private rooftop terrace of San Gimignano.

8. Visit Parco della Rocca

For another nice view of San Gimignano, visit Parco della Rocca and climb the short staircase to Rocca di Montestaffoli for great views of San Gimignano.

Parco della Rocca

Parco della Rocca


Rocca di Montestaffoli View

The view from Rocca di Montestaffoli

Also in this park is the Vernaccia di San Gimignano Wine Experience, where you can taste Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a white wine produced in this region.

Italy Travel Guide Florence

9. Explore the Side Streets of San Gimignano

If you really want to see San Gimignano, don’t hesitate to explore the side streets. We wandered off the main tourist drag, for a little time away from the larger groups of visitors.

From Via Bonda, we had a gorgeous view of Tuscany and had a nice family photo session with a beautiful backdrop.

Earth Trekkers Italy

Earth Trekkers

You can also get a nice view from this spot on Via degli Innocenti.

You can also “walk the walls” in San Gimignano. You won’t actually walk on the walls, but walk around the exterior of the medieval walls, on a route that takes you from Porta delle Fonti to Porta Quercecchio. 

San Gimignano Towers

The towers of San Gimignano

10. Visit the Church of St. Augustine

The Church of St. Augustine (Chiesa di Sant’Agostino) is the second largest church in San Gimignano.

The fresco cycle on The Life of St. Augustine was painted by Benozzo Gozzoli between 1463 and 1467. Another important thing to see is the altar piece Coronation of the Virgin by Piero del Pollaiuolo.

Church of St Augustine

This church is located in the northwestern part of San Gimignano. It’s nice to visit but only worth it if you have a lot of time or want to see the artworks inside.

11. Go Shopping

We love shopping in San Gimignano. There are shops selling local foods, handmade crafts, pottery, lavender, wine, and souvenirs.

Many of these shops are located on Via S. Giovanni, in between Porta San Giovanni and Piazza della Cisterna.

Just inside of Porta San Giovanni is La Cacioteca, a tiny shop that sells local meats and cheeses. It’s a great place to put together a picnic lunch or buy a snack for later in the day.

La Cacioteca

Pecorino Cheese

Pecorino cheese at La Cacioteca

12. Try the Local Foods

Wild boar stew and wild boar ragu is one of the most popular foods to try while in San Gimignano.

Wild Boar Ragu

Wild Boar Ragu

San Gimignano is also famous for its saffron, which makes its way into risotto Milanese and seasons some fish and vegetable dishes.

Try Vernaccia di San Gimignano wine, pici pasta, and of course, don’t miss the gelato at Gelateria Dondoli.

Best Things to Do in San Gimigano: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

How Much Time Do You Need in San Gimignano?

With a half of a day, you have enough time to stroll through the historic city center, climb Torre Grossa or Torre Salvucci Maggiore for the view, visit the Duomo di San Gimignano, do a little shopping, and have lunch or dinner.

With more time, venture away from the main streets, to explore the side streets, visit Parco della Rocca, go wine tasting, visit San Gimignano 1300, and try a second restaurant in town.

Where to Eat in San Gimignano

We had a wonderful lunch at La Mangiatoia, dining on fresh pasta dishes and wild boar ragu.

La Mangiatoia

La Mangiatoia

Il Ceppo Toscano serves traditional Tuscan dishes with meat being the main thing on the menu (the black pepper stew and steaks get rave reviews).

La Vecchia Nicchia is a budget friendly restaurant that serves pizza, bruschetta, and salads.

For dinner with a view, go to La Vecchie Mura.

How to Get to San Gimignano

Public Transportation

There are no train stations in San Gimignano.

If you are using public transportation, you will have to take the bus. From Florence, take bus 131 to Poggibonsi (50 minutes travel time). In Poggibonsi, transfer to bus 130 to San Gimignano (travel time of 20 to 30 minutes).

From Siena, take bus 130A to Poggibonsi. Some buses continue on to San Gimignano or you may have to transfer to a different bus.

On our first visit to San Gimignano, we traveled by bus from Siena. We had no issues getting to San Gimignano. But in the afternoon, the first bus did not arrive, which left us (and a growing crowd of people) waiting an extra 45 minutes for the second bus. On multiple occasions in Italy, we were left waiting for buses that failed to show up. So yes, you can get here by bus, but be prepared to put yourself at the mercy of the Italian bus system.

On our second visit to San Gimignano, we had a car, which was a much better overall experience.

By Car

Here are the driving distances and times from nearby destinations:

  • Siena: 41 km, 45 minutes
  • Florence: 60 km, 1.25 hours
  • Volterra: 30 km, 40 minutes
  • Pisa: 78 km, 1.5 hours
  • Lucca: 90 km, 1.5 hours
  • Montalcino: 80 km, 1.5 hours

There are several parking lots (Parcheggios) located outside of the city center.

We parked at Parcheggio 2 Montemaggio, a small lot that is a very short walk from Porta San Giovanni. This is the most convenient place to park but it can be challenging to get a spot here midday.

Farther away is Parcheggio 1 Giubileo, which is a 10-minute walk to Porta San Giovanni. However, it is a larger lot with cheaper prices.

For more information about the parking lots located around San Gimignano, click here.

San Gimignano Tuscany Italy

The view from Torre Grossa

Tours of San Gimignano

If you don’t plan on renting a car while in Tuscany, you can visit San Gimigano on a tour. This takes care of your transportation to and from San Gimignano, which can save you a lot of time. It also allows you to visit more than one town on your day trip. Or do something unique, like going truffle hunting.



Things to Do Near San Gimignano

There are several Tuscan hill towns that can be added onto your visit to San Gimignano. Spend a half of a day at San Gimignano and half of a day at one of these other towns. To do this, it is best to have a rental car, as public transportation adds a lot of time.

Volterra is another hilltop town in Tuscany. It has some similarities to San Gimignano, with its medieval streets and towers to climb. With its museums and archaeological sites, this is a great town to visit if you have an interest in history or art.

Siena is a must-visit while in Tuscany. There is a lot to do here, so ideally, you need a full day to see the highlights, but if you are short on time, you can visit Piazza del Campo, climb Torre del Mangia for one of the best views of Tuscany, and visit the Siena Cathedral and associated sites.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is San Gimignano famous?

San Gimigano is famous for its 14 medieval towers, the most of any hill town in Tuscany. Climbing one of these towers for a view over the town is one of the best things to do in San Gimignano.

Is San Gimigano worth visiting?

With its towers to climb, side streets to explore, great shops and restaurants, and historical sights, San Gimignano is well worth the visit. In fact, it is one of the most popular Tuscan hill towns to visit.

How do you say San Gimignano?

San Gimignano is pronounced Sahn Jee-Meen-Yah-Noh.

How much time do you need in San Gimignano?

With a half of a day, you have enough time to stroll through the historic city center, climb Torre Grossa or Torre Salvucci Maggiore for the view, visit the Duomo di San Gimignano, do a little shopping, and have lunch or dinner.

With more, venture away from the main streets, to explore the side streets, visit Parco della Rocca, go wine tasting, visit San Gimignano 1300, and try a second restaurant in town.

More Information for Your Trip to Tuscany

FLORENCE: If you are planning your first visit to Florence, don’t miss our guide to the 10 Best Things to Do in Florence. We also have guides about the best rooftop bars in Florence, the best viewpoints in Florence, and how to visit the Florence Cathedral.

FLORENCE ITINERARIES: Learn how to plan your time with our articles on how to spend One Day in Florence and Two Days in Florence.

DAY TRIPS FROM FLORENCE: Here are 15 day trips to take from Florence, with practical information on how to plan your day.

TUSCANY: Get started with our guide to the Best Things to Do in Tuscany. Learn how to plan your visit with our Tuscany Itinerary, which has sample itineraries, whether you have 3 days, 5 days, or an entire week in Tuscany.

TUSCAN HILL TOWNS: Check out our detailed guides to Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia, Monteriggioni, Lucca, Volterra, Arezzo, and Cortona.

SIENA: Plan your visit to Siena with our articles Best Things to Do in Siena, One Perfect Day in Siena and How to Visit the Siena Cathedral.

If you have any questions about the best things to do in San Gimignano, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Italy

ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for five different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Rome, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and Venice. For those with more time, check out our 14 day Italy itinerary, which covers the highlights of Italy.

BEST OF ITALY: In our guide to the Best Places to Visit in Italy, we list 25 beautiful destinations to consider for your next trip to Italy.

ROME: For a list of the top experiences in Rome, read our article Best Things to Do in Rome. Learn how to put these together in our 2 Day Rome Itinerary and 3 day Rome Itinerary. And don’t miss our guides to the Best Views of Rome, best Rooftop Bars in Rome, and our Rome Restaurant Guide.

NORTHERN ITALY: Verona is a beautiful city to add to your Italy itinerary and we also have a detailed guides on Lake Garda and how to day trip to Lake Como and Bellagio. In our Northern Italy Itinerary, visit Venice, the Dolomites, Verona, Milan, and Lake Como.


We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, Basilicata, and Puglia.


San Gimignano Italy Travel


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Photo Tour of San Gimignano in Tuscany, Italy

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Comments 16

  1. Avatar for Brian
  2. Avatar for Roberto

    Hello: do you recommend a time of day to climb the Torre Grossa for better light? What time did you climb it? THanks

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We climbed it both midday (around 1 pm) and later afternoon (around 3 pm). The lighting midday is better as you get less shadowing in the photos. In this guide, the photos from Torre Grossa were taken midday. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Don Mammoser
    Don Mammoser

    Very well written article. I am a big travel lover and have visited 8 countries till now. However, I have never been to San Gimignano but I am heading there as part of a trip to Umbria in July. Their beautiful photographs have made me more excited about my trip.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  4. Avatar for Asmae


    I am landing in airport of PISA on Thursday 11 April in the morning, and I would like to set an itinerary for my trip ending Sunday evening ( flying back on Monday early morning).
    I am thinking of hiring a car for the entire trip, would you recommand this?
    From going through your blog posts, I am think roughly of visiting PISA upon arrival, and then head to Florence then somewhere in tuscany/ san gimignano. As i like to combine city sightseeing and nature sightseeing ( hiking) I want to stay in two different places 2 nights each to allow for a balanced trip. what would you recommand, thank you for everything.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      You could take the train from Pisa to Florence and then rent a car (from Florence) for the 2 days you will spend in Tuscany. Spend Thursday in Pisa (sleep in Pisa), take a morning train to Florence and see Florence on Friday (sleep in Florence). Rent a car Saturday morning and spend the next 2 days in Tuscany. You could spend 3 nights in Florence and day trip into Tuscany, or spend 1 night in Florence and 2 nights in San Gimignano or Siena. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Svjetlana

    hi there,
    Love the info you guys are providing and all the photos!
    I am planning to stay in Florence for 4 days. Would you say that 1 day trip to San Gimignano and 1 day trip to Sienna would be workable?
    I would have to bus it sadly….:(.


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, those day trips work great from Florence. We took the bus to Siena from Florence and had no issues. It was the bus from San Gimignano back to Siena that we had issues with. This was now several years ago, so hopefully things will be better. But it’s worth it…we really liked San Gimignano, and Siena is one of my favorite cities in Italy. 🙂 Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Ashley
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Visiting Siena and San Gimignano in the same day is possible but it will be very rushed. If you have a driver or a car, you can do it. By bus, it’s a different story. Start in the town you want to visit the most. If you love it, stay all day. If you get bored after a few hours (which would be crazy…they’re both wonderful 🙂 ) move on to the next one. We do have a post on how to visit Siena in one day if you are interested. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Ashley
  7. Avatar for maria doud
    maria doud

    I love your blog. I am enjoying the pictures and all the information. I wish my parents would have taken me on a trip like this.

  8. Avatar for Lynn McLain
    Lynn McLain

    Thank you all for sharing your amazing adventure! I would never have been brave enough to take a year off and take the kids out of school, but all four of you will learn and remember so much from this trip, it is so worth it. Your posts and photos — and Tyler’s videos (with some exciting help from Dad, especially on the Appian Way!) — are great. They give all your readers a fine flavor of each place. Thanks so much! Enjoy!

  9. Avatar for Stacey Rubin
    Stacey Rubin

    Love watching this great journey. the pictures are incredible and I feel like I’m with you. It’s so exciting to see where you will be next. Just be safe and enjoy every minute with your kids !!!

  10. Avatar for Margaret

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