Along the Via Francigena, halfway between Siena and Florence, there is one of the most famous boroughs in Italy. It's San Gimignano, known for its walls and towers, that stand on the top of the hill on which it is perched, offering visitors a breathtaking view from afar.
Like Siena, San Gimignano too has a perfectly preserved medieval historic center, enclosed in the XI century walls. In origin the towers were actually only 72, one for each of the rich rival families who inhabited the small town, today unfortunately only 14 of them remain, but the charm of the borough has remained unchanged.
The center of San Gimignano is located at the top of a steep slope, where there is an extraordinary architectural and urbanistic ensemble, Piazza della Cisterna and the adjacent Piazza del Duomo.
The first square was, and probably still is today, the liveliest and most popular place in San Gimignano. It was the square of the ancient market and of the craftsmen's workshops, here is were the jousting took place, and were still today is the octagonal well that gives the place its name. One of the most famous towers of the borough dominates the square, it's Torre del Diavolo, the Devil's Tower, so called because according to the legend the Devil himself increased its height taking advantage of the absence of the owner.
Piazza del Duomo, on the other hand, was the place of institutions, once again the Church and the State faced each other, with the Cathedral on one side and the Palazzo del Popolo on the other. The latter houses an interesting art gallery, full of works of by famous artists, including Pinturicchio, Lippo Memmi and Benozzo Gozzoli. Dante too, stayed here on a diplomatic visit from Florence, and his room can still be visited. With its 54 meters, the tower of the Palazzo del Popolo, Torre Grossa, is the highest in San Gimignano; from the top you can enjoy an amazing view over the roofs of the village. It's the only tower that can be visited, the others in fact were and still are, privately owned.
The beautiful Cathedral instead, houses the chapel of Santa Fina, wonderfully frescoed by Ghirlandaio.
A little further from the center there is the church of Sant'Agostino as well, with the majolica floor by Andrea della Robbia and works by Pollaiolo and Benozzo Gozzoli.
To enjoy an unforgettable view from a privileged point, it is worth climbing up to the Rocca di Montestaffoli. Not much remains of this ancient building that defended San Gimignano, however today there are still festivals and cultural events of various kinds, and the view over the green Tuscan countryside is not to be missed.