I love Italy. I love the scenery, the stylish people, the food and the architecture. One of my favourite places in Italy is San Gimignano in Tuscany. This hilltop Medieval walled town doesn’t allow cars in so you have to leave your car in one of the many car parks just outside the walls.
Once inside the walls of San Gimagnano you will be confronted by palaces, churches and squares. One of the most famous squares is The Piazza della Cisterna with a public well in the centre and it has been a gathering place for the towns inhabitants for over 1,200 years.
But San Gimignano is also famous for its towers. There at least 14 towers within the towns walls and it is possible to climb many of them to get a birds eye view of the rooftops and the vineyards in the distance. These Medieval towers were built as a sign of power by the people who built them. The higher the tower the more power you had and the towns inhabitants were constantly trying to build a taller one than their neighbours. Nothing in the world changes. It’s cars on your driveway now that people use to try and get one up on their neighbours. Sad, but true!
The other famous tower in Italy is, of course, in Pisa. The Tower was built in 1173 and within a few years the foundations had begun to sink on one side. By 1985 the tower was in danger of collapse so engineering work was done to stabilise it although the engineers did not want to straighten it too much because that would mean it couldn’t be called The Leaning Tower of Pisa any more !
Apart from The Leaning Tower, Pisa doesn’t have many other tourist attractions to offer so I would recommend only having a night or two in Pisa before heading off to other parts of Tuscany.
The nearest airport to San Gimignano is Florence but it is cheaper and nearly as convenient to fly to Pisa. If you fly to Pisa you can see the Tower and then hire a car and drive to San Gimignano which is about 50 miles away. Buses run to San Gimignano from Pisa and Florence.
Where to eat
There are plenty of good restaurants and cafes in San Gimignano and Pisa although Pisa in my view doesn’t have as much character as San Gimignano. In Pisa you could try Le Scuderie where they sell pizza by the metre and they use a wood burning oven It’s just off the main shopping street which is called Corso Italia. I can vouch for the pizza myself as I have been to this pizza restaurant several times. Also, I can recommend Osteria Il Fantasma dell’Opera on Via Palestro.
In San Gimignano you will find many good restaurants but if you want ice cream I can recommend the world famous Gelateria di Piazza located in the central Piazza della Cisterna in San Gimignano, known all over the world and visited by a large number of celebrities including Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister.
Where to stay
There are several hotels in San Gimignano and lots more in Pisa. I have stayed at Hotel Santa Croce In Fossabanda (Pisa), which was once a monastery and is about a 20 minute walk to Pisa centre. I have stayed at Hotel Bologna in the historical centre of Pisa and also the Astor which is also in a good location and is clean but basic. In San Gimagnano the Leon Bianco Hotel is good value for money.
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