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San Gimignano

The beautiful medieval town is on a hill at 344 m above sea level, It dominates the Val d'Elsa in the province of Siena. Famous for the many high towers which characterize the historic center it is today an international touristic destination and part of it is cultural and natural UNESCO heritage.

San Gimignano had an important development during the Middleage thanks to its location on the via Francigena.

In that time the town enriched churches and monasteries with important artistic works. In 1199 it became Libero Comune (free municipality) and fighted againts the Vescovado di Volterra and the surrounding municipalities.

It was also victim of internal fights. The town was divided into two families: Ardinghelli belonging to the Guelfi and Salvucci to the Ghibellini.

In 1300 Dante Alighieri visited the town as ambassador of the Lega Guelfa in Tuscany.

After the plague in 1348, San Gimignano falled in in very grave and long crisis which ended only many centuries later when its cultural and artistic importance was discovered.

Further to the beautiful towers not to be missed are: the Duono, also called Collegiata, rich of precious frescoes of the Senese school (Taddeo di Bartolo, Bottega dei Memmi, Bartolo di Fredi), paintings of Florentine school (Ghrilandaio e Benozzo Gozzoli), wooden statues by Jacopo della Quercia and sculptures by Giuliano e Benedetto da Maiano; the Palazzo Comunale which hosts the Maestà di Lippo Memmi and the art gallery with works of  Filippino Lippi, Pinturicchio, Benozzo Gozzoli and other important artists. From the museum it is also possible to visit the tower of the Podestà, 54 mt high.

A visit must be deserved to the Museo d'arte Sacra,  Museo Archeologico, Spezieria di Santa Fina , Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea R. De Grada, Chiesa di Sant'Agostino where frescoes of   Benozzo Gozzoli, Piero del Pollaiolo, Francesco Fiorentino, Vincenzo Tamagni, Sebastiano Mainardi e Benedetto da Maiano can be seen, Chiese di Santo Bartolo, San Jacopo, Sani Piero, San Lorenzo in Ponte and San Francesco, Rocca di Montestaffoli e il Museo Ornitologico.

The territory of and around  San Gimignano is very generous of the fruits of the fields and the work of the man like the saffron and the wine yards. In San Gimignano  the Vernaccia, one of the most famous Tuscan white wines is produced and the saffron plant is cultivated.

To rent a villa with swimming pool, a castle, a country house, a stone farm house with swimming pool in the countryside around San Gimignanois one of the best ways to enjoy your holiday with your family or friends.

Vacavilla offers a great collection of luxury villas and apartments with swimming pool in the countryside around San Gimignano. Contact Vacavilla if you do not find the answer to your needs. Tell them what you are looking for. The Vacavilla team will be glad to offer you special booking conditions for your perfect holiday in a Vacavilla home.


The town stands on the hilltop (555 m) that separates the Val d'Era (to the north) from Val di Cecina (to the south), amidst a landscape of clay that is particularly impressive. 

The town was once a rich lucumonia (administrative and religious capital) in Etruscan times by the name of Velathri, and then became a Roman municipality and a free medieval commune. 

Geography and history

In Etruscan and Roman times the town grew notably thanks to the mining of copper and silver, but also thanks to farming. The presence of the Cecina river allowed for rapid communication towards the sea, thus favoring trade and commerce.

The town's element of strength at this time were its vast and powerful city walls, still for the most part visible today, built at the end of the 4th century B.C., which stretched for over 7 kilometers. Even under Roman control the city preserved an important role, but then began to decline during the imperial age. During the Middle Ages, after the government of bishop Galgano Pannocchieschi who was killed by the population in 1170, the city was ruled as a free municipality. It is in this era that Palazzo dei Priori was built as well as the numerous tower-houses which were used to defend the noble families engaged in frequent and violent power struggles. After the Belforti lordship during the 1300s, the city fell under Florentine control, although resistance continued for a long time up until the massacre of the mid-1400s carried out by the mercenaries of Federico of Montefeltro.

After the town's decline in later centuries, Volterra then became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and in the 1700s the town had a recovery, thanks to the workmanship of alabaster, which opened up new markets, as well as to the production of salt, which in 1912 required the building of the Saline- Volterra railway line.

The monuments in Volterra represent the trace of its historic evolution. 

For the Etruscan era, Acropolis excavations have brought to light an area devoted to religious activities with places of worship and service areas , such as warehouses and religious dwellings. Whereas, outside of the town are the necropolis, those of Portone, Badia, Ulimeto and Ripaie. The decoration of the tombs, including the very famous urns in tuff and alabaster , can be seen in the Guarnacci Museum, which preserves a unique and exceptional collection of Etruscan objects (including the famous "Ombra della sera").

The Roman Theater was partially dug into the natural slope of a hill, as was often done in Greece. After it was abandoned, the theater was further tampered with by the building of a spa structure near the scenic building and incorporation of the higher part of the steps in the city walls. 

Palazzo dei Priori and its Square testify to the Middle Ages, as does Palazzo Minucci-Soliani, which today houses the town Pinacoteca and the Eco-museum of Alabaster, in addition to the Romanesque Cathedral of Volterra, in front of which stands the Baptistery of San Giovanni.

Food and wine

La cucina rientra nel panorama della tipicità toscana, con l’impiego di prodotti della terra, poveri ma trattati con gusto e fantasia. Fra questi la zuppa “carabaccia”, a base di cipolle, che probabilmente è all’origine della francese soupe all’oignon. Da segnalare anche il baccalà alla fiorentina, il cinghiale con funghi e polenta, la lepre ai tre vini.

The local cuisine is part of the variety of typical Tuscan cuisine, with the use of local farm products that are simple but treated with taste and imagination. Among these dishes is the "carabaccia" soup, made with onions and which probably lies at the origins of the French onion soup. Other typical dishes are "baccalà (stockfish) alla fiorentina", "cingiale" (wild boar) with mushrooms and polenta, "la lepre (wild hare) ai tre vini".