Suggested Length of Stay: Weekend
How to get there: Car or motorcycle
Declared the Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO, Sam Gimignano is famous for its thirteen medieval towers—centuries ago there were a total of seventy-two—which give this beautiful Tuscan town its country elegance in the province of Siena. Its international fame it not only due to its architectural uniqueness, but also to the richness and importance of the artwork present and the celebrated Vernaccia white wine, produced exclusively in the area. According to tradition, the grape vines seem to have been brought to the town of San Gimignano by Vieri de’ Barbi, a man from Liguria, in the 1200s. His descendents, Zanobi and Angiolo Bardi, then cultivated the grape, which developed into a world-renowned wine. Already in 1276, sales of the Vernaccia wine from San Gimignano rose considerably, so much that the tax imposed on the Vernaccia was registered as ‘three coins’ for all bottles sold outside of the commune.
Not to miss
The Duomo in Sam Gimignano was built in 1148 and is considered one of the most beautiful museums in Tuscany. Built with three naves, the Duomo features frescoes from the Scuola Fiorentina: San Sebastiano (Benozzo Gozzoli), the story of Santa Fina di Domenico Ghirlandaio and the Statua Lignee della Quercia. The Palazzo Comunale, which was the old public authority building, is also very interesting. It is now home to the civic museum and gallery, where there are artworks on display by Pinturicchio, Benozzo, Gozzoli, Filippino Lippi, Domenico di Michelino, Pier Francesco Fiorentino. Inside the Palazzo Comunale you can visit the Dante Room which contains the Maestà di Lippi Memmia. You can also go up the tower, called the Torre del Podestà or Torre Grossa, which is 54 metres high and dates back to 1311.
Where to stay
The ‘Antica Dimora’ has been described by the Art Authority of Siena as ‘a historical monument’. The two years of careful restructuring has respected the traditional characteristics of the building because it has re-used the original building material recuperated from the surrounding territory. Guests can use the kitchen and large dinning table located in the communal area: especially useful for big groups that occupy all of the rooms, this feature will allow for large lunches and diners. There is ample parking in front of the hotel.
Information and helpful hints
The Vernaccia wine was the first white wine in Tuscany to receive the DOCG label in 1993. It has been subject to continual evolution both in the cantina and on the grape vine, bringing it to the top of its class in terms of quality. The wine is mostly made from the vernaccia grape. About ten percent of the wine is mixed with other non-aromatic white grapes. It is characterized by its soft yellowish colour: a refined and penetrating fragrance, a dry taste with a bitterish aftertaste. Its alcoholic count is 11 to 11.5 percent for the reserve wines. Vernaccia wine is best served with vegetable stews, Italian starters, fish and shellfish, although it also serves as a great aperitif.
The ‘Degusta con noi’ wine festival runs from April to October. The event features guided visits to vineyards to do some wine-tasting of the area’s best wines. For more information call the Tourist Office, Piazza Duomo, 1 at 0577/940008.