Classic Tuscany Tour
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Located in the hills of Val d’Elsa, San Gimignano is famous mainly for its numerous towers gentilizie.In past symbol of power and prestige of the rich bourgeois families to which have belonged, now make thisvillage one of the prettiest and characteristic of Tuscany. A place where time stopped, which has preserved its fortified village structure whose architecture or layout still holds to this day a treasure trove of history, art and culture today subjected to monumental bond and declared World Heritage.
The extraordinary spectacle that San Gimignano offers the visitor is represented by its towers. High and mighty, the nobles vied to build the highest tower, the most solid, the most beautiful; it represented a symbol of prestige to the point that, to the families defeats in local struggles could be imposed, as a sign of humiliation , the ‘cimatura’ ,the height reduction of its tower, as it was raised to the level of the surrounding houses .
In the middle of the thirteenth century the race for the highest tower represented the externalization of a status attained by the House, which involved a bit ‘all the aristocratic families of the time; so that in the fourteenth century, the 13,000 residents of San Gimignano could claim the protection of a wall inside which rose up as many as 72 towers .The highest of all is the Palazzo del Podesta tower, called ‘Rognosa’ with its 51 meters in height exceeded only by the fourteenth century ‘Torre Grossa’ the People’s Palace, now the Town Hall, of less than 54 meters. monumental center is the Piazza del Duomo. On this square facing the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria, building dating from 1056 in which are kept masterpieces by Taddeo di Bartolo, Benozzo Gozzoli, Lippo Memmi and Bartolo di Fredi, the wooden statues by Jacopo della Quercia depicting the Annunciation and the ‘ Archangel Gabriel. A real jewel is the Chapel of Santa Fina, the patron saint of San Gimignano, refined Renaissance building of Giuliano and Benedetto da Majano, decorated by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
To the Collegiate church are connected the Sacred Art and etruscan Museums, with paintings, sculptures and sacred vestments as well as archaeological finds from Etruscan excavations of the surroundings. In the same Piazza del Duomo is the Palazzo del Podesta, built in 1239, well known for the Chigi tower, which stands on the side and for the Rognosa tower above it; at the Town Hall, which houses the Civic Museum and the Art Gallery, with its’ Tower Grossa’. La facade bears the coats of arms of the Podesta and retains the gallery from which they communicated with the public. In the courtyard of the building there is a cistern tardotrecentesca and loggia a fresco by Sodoma depicting Saint Ivo. In the contiguous Piazza della Cisterna, the center of the village, there is the medieval cistern that supplied water to the population. It is bordered by ancient buildings: Palazzo Ardinghelli with thirteenth century towers, House Ridolfi, Rockets Mansion House, Palazzo Tortoli-Treccani which has a truncated tower and Palazzo dei Cortesi, with his ‘Devil’s Tower’. Besides the towers San Gimignano was also a fortress, that of Montestaffoli, built by the Florentines in 1353, the highest point of the city, control of the town. They were then the same Florentine, aged Medici to dismantle it. From the ruins of the fort, that still preserves part of the walls and a tower, you can admire one of the most scenic views over the area and the surrounding countryside.