Traveling to Tuscany? Visit with us the wonderful town of San Miniato discovering the best things to see through the views of its historic center!
Tuscany is a magical region, rich in history, charm, culture and landscape wonders to admire while walking through the alleys of its enchanting historic villages, among precious works of art, monumental buildings and, why not, holding a delicious glass of wine in hand.
Our journey today takes us back to this awesome region to discover a symbolic diamond of tuscanity: San Miniato. Let's find out together the best things to see through the most exclusive views of its historic center - known as San Miniato 'Alto' ('High' San Miniato) - and don't miss our suggestions for a fantastic itinerary!
Where is San Miniato: itineraries from Pisa and Florence
The village of San Miniato stands on a hill in a strategic position on the map of Tuscany, exactly halfway between Florence and Pisa, the province to which it belongs. The surrounding territory of San Miniato is in fact the true border between these two provinces, whose perimeter is designed by the Arno and Elsa rivers. This makes the city, famous for being one of the truffle capitals, a place that is absolutely worth visiting on an itinerary between these two fantastic cities.
To reach San Miniato there are several ways. By car, starting from both Pisa and Florence, the two alternatives consist of taking the Florence-Pisa-Livorno highway for a faster and more linear journey, or the SS67 for a slower and more immersive itinerary through the landscape dominated by hills and vineyards, fascinating villages and cities (including Empoli) and poetic views of the flowing Arno river. It is also possible to move easily by train, mainly regional, by getting off at San Miniato-Fucecchio (or also ‘Low’ San Miniato) and then continuing, even on foot, towards the ancient village higher up the hill.
Check out the button below if you want to visit Pisa enjoying some excellent wine!
On the other hand, if you want to discover the wonders of the history, culture, art and tradition of Florence, we have thought of a fantastic city pass for you to visit the most beautiful attractions of the stupendous city of lily. Find out more below!
San Miniato, things to see: discover the best places to visit
Glimpses of the historic center of 'high' San Miniano; Source: Canva, Wikimedia; Authors: Prof. Quatermass, Sailko
Finally, here we are in San Miniato, ready to immerse ourselves in the magic of this magnificent village symbol of tuscanity, which is also an icon of the so-called 'leather area' - one of the most important industrial and artisanal production centers of leather products.
We reach the center of San Miniato at the top of the hill, through places that tell us stories about emperors and military leaders (and also about a wooden puppet, as we will see) and we begin right away our tour to discover the best things to see in its magical historic hamlet. Our stages are:
- the Tower of Frederick II;
- the Cathedral of San Miniato and its Tower of Matilde;
- the Sanctuary of the Holy Crucifix;
- the Town Hall;
- the Episcopal Seminary;
- the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.
The Tower of Frederick II
Starting from the highest point of San Miniato we encounter the symbol of the city, the majestic Tower di Frederick II, a 37 meter building that dominates the surrounding landscape. To find out more famous towers in Tuscany, click here.
This tower was built at the behest of the emperor between 1217 and 1223, as a reinforcement for the city defenses. Over the centuries its usefulness from a strategic and military point of view has been significant, in particular in the clash between Pisa and Florence for the dominion over San Miniato, but in 1530 it was practically abandoned. Much later, during the second world war, the tower once again became the protagonist of tragic war scenarios, being demolished in July 1944.
But then does Frederick II's tower still exist? Yes! What can be admired today in San Miniato is an accurate reconstruction of the original tower, built in 1958, and is open to the public: we recommend you visit it and reach its top for a breathtaking view!
The Cathedral and the Tower of Matilde
We continue our tour across San Miniato by visiting the city Cathedral, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and San Genesio. This is the main church of the city, a truly iconic place that transmits charm and beauty inside and out.
Built between the 1100s and 1200s, mixing artistic and architectural styles between Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical, the Cathedral is characterized on the outside by a rustic appearance given by the red of its bricks and the presence of some ceramic decorations on the facade , three stone portals and as many rose windows; the interior is much more sumptuous instead with many rich and elegant decorations including sculptures and paintings, as well as a beautiful carved and bright ceiling.
But what stands out the most is the Tower of Matilde, the beautiful Romanesque style bell tower originally built as a military building in the time of Frederick II, a perfect subject for a stunning photograph to remind you of your trip to San Miniato!
The Sanctuary of the Holy Crucifix
Next stage: the Sanctuary of the Holy Crucifix, another of the dozens of churches and chapels here in San Miniato (which we suggest you discover by walking through the streets of the town) that is located right behind the Cathedral and its tower.
Here the scenery is truly monumental and a large eighteenth-century staircase, decorated with some sculptures of religious inspiration, leads us towards this apparently sober church, but which instead hides inside a true jewel of refinement and artistic beauty which houses frescoes, sculptures , marble altars and a rare wooden crucifix dating back before the year 1000.
The building was built at the beginning of the 1700s in Baroque style and represents an absolutely unmissable attraction for lovers of beauty, for those seeking in places for the purity of art and perspectives so fascinating to leave completely speechless.
The Town Hall
Our journey through San Miniato continues by visiting the Town Hall, a magnificent 1300s building which is much more than the administrative center of the city.
From the outside the building has a modern appearance, rather anonymous, as the result of the continuous artistic restorations that have characterized its history; but the true magic of this place is contained within its walls, with the magnificent frescoes that decorate the Loretino Oratory on the ground floor and above all the ancient Hall of the Seven Virtues, the place where began the story of San Miniato as a free Municipality after the death of Frederick II.
Today the Town Hall is one of the most visited places in the town; and with the enormous charm of art and history contained within it, it's easy to understand why!
The Episcopal Seminary
Wandering around the village in search of the most beautiful views to see in San Miniato, you certainly cannot miss a visit to the solemn Episcopal Seminary, a palace that witnesses the power and importance of the city in the history of its territory.
Built as a training place for new bishops between the 1600s and 1700s following a strongly Renaissance style, the Seminary building has artistic and architectural characteristics that make it a unique and fascinating attraction. What catches the eye above all are its front facade, with its concave perspective that embraces the entire adjacent square, and the elegant and orderly decorations that decorate the details of every door and window.
Today the building houses various public and religious offices, as well as a rich library which serves as a true town's historical archive through documents and books.
The Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art
Our final stage here in San Miniato is the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, located near the Cathedral in the chambers of the ancient sacristy.
This museum is among the most important of its kind all over Italy, officially established in 1966, and houses over 50 finds including artefacts, canvases, paintings, sculptures and even portions of frescoes from the parishes of the local diocese (which is based right here in San Miniato). The museum is made up of five rooms where the collected works are arranged in a timeframe starting from the oldest, dating back to the heart of the Middle Ages in the era of Frederick II, up to the most recent ones which date back to 1800s.
Furthermore, the museum plays an important role from an educational point of view for the involvement of schools and students in learning art and history: a real cultural challenge to innovate the education of these disciplines by enhancing the beauty coming from the past.
Fun facts about San Miniato: from Pinocchio to Napoleon
Well, the time has come to discover a couple of really interesting fun facts about San Miniato. What does this village in Tuscany, a crossroads between Pisa and Florence, have to do with the most famous wooden puppet of fairy tales and the most iconic general in modern history?
Well, let's start from the first fun fact. Not everyone knows that the lowest part of the village, which is also the largest and most populous as well as the economic, productive and commercial core of the town, was anciently known as Pinocchio. Yes, you got it right, the puppet who between the innocence of one lie and another wanted to become a real child, the fruit of the creativy of Carlo Collodi. Today this much-loved fairytale character is still strongly celebrated in San Miniato, particularly during Carnival.
But let's now move on to the second fun fact. Did you know that there is a palace in the city that bears the name of the Bonaparte? Yes, you understood correctly: Napoleon was also here, perhaps the most brilliant general ever, looking for his noble origins coming from Tuscany. You didn't expect that, did you?
San Miniato: things to see on the folkloric events
The National White Truffle Fair-Market and Fires of San Giovanni; Source: Wikipedia; Author: Prof.Quatermass
Wait a minute, our adventure in San Miniato isn't over yet! Let's discover together what beautiful things to see on the folkloric events of the rich tradition of this beautiful village.
The most characteristic and important event is certainly the National White Truffle Fair-Market of the Hills of San Miniato, a celebration that enhances one of the most iconic products of the territory by filling the main streets and squares of the city on the second, third and fourth weekend of November. Other minor events linked to this precious product are the Truffle Festival of Corazzano (the first Sunday of October), the Truffle and Mushroom Festival of Balconevisi (the third Sunday of October) and finally the Marzuolo Truffle Festival of Cigoli (during the month of March).
Another event not to be missed in San Miniato is the Night of the Fires of San Giovanni (in June), a truly evocative celebration that illuminates the large grassy terrace at the foot of the imposing Tower of Frederick II with the warm and embracing light of the bonfires. Always in summer, mainly in July, we also recommend visiting San Miniato for the Theater Festival and the series of classical music concerts Un Castello di Suoni (A Castle of Sounds): two fantastic events to fill up on art and culture in the unique setting of this city that preserves the most authentic spirit of Tuscany.