San Gimignano and Colle di Val d’Elsa Tour
San Gimignano historic centre
Medieval Town Hall
Stop at the Farm
Colle di Val d’Elsa and Cristal Museum
Duration of the tour: 6 hours
Suitable for children: yes
Disabled’s Accessibility: sí
Difference in level: 40 metres
(San Gimignano and Colle di Val d’Elsa)
One of the most beautiful medieval villages in Europe
The tour of San Gimignano brings you to know, in the Province of Siena, one of the most beautiful villages in Europe. Centre of commerce and halting-place for pilgrims and writers, just 30km from Siena, it is in this day famous for its ancient towers, for its wine and for its profile which, thanks to the towers, is made unmistakable among the surrounding hills.
We start with our route from the Porta San Giovanni, the old city gate to the historic centre that can still be seen flanked by the 13th-century walls. The street opening before us is still animated by souvenir and craft shops; in medieval times, this was the obligatory route for pilgrims and wayfarers on the Francigena route. Entering the heart of the town, you will be enveloped in the enchantment of Piazza della Cisterna which, thanks to the towers that still surrounding it, is an exceptionally suggestive space, capable of evoking, together with the adjacent Piazza del Duomo, images of the times when these streets and squares were frequented by merchants and poets.
Discover the charm of the Collegiate
From Piazza della Collegiata we will move to Piazza del Duomo that is where we can visit the Collegiate Church of San Gimignano. In spite of the sobriety of its facade, the interior is decorated with frescoes – of exquisite workmanship – made by artists of the 14th-century Sienese Painting school. As an alternative to the Collegiate, it is certainly worth visiting the ancient Palazzo Comunale (the town Hall), a medieval building which, in addition to house the rich Pinacoteca, is where we can discover the secrets behind the amatory frescoes in the Podesta’s room. Visiting the ancient Council Chamber – decorated with images about knights and tournaments –, we see where the noted poet Dante Alghieri gave an important political speech in the early 14th century. It’s here that we will have the sensation of being able to relive the times in which these rooms were destined for assemblies for the city government.
Visit the highest tower of San Gimignano
Another suggestive thing to visit in San Gimignano is the so-called “Torre Grossa” which, with its fifty-four metres high, allows you to enjoy a breathtaking view of the village of San Gimignano and all the surrounding area.
The tour of San Gimignano then continues through the streets of the historic centre; if you have not visited the Torre Grossa – or if you have visited it but you are still eager for panoramic views – we will go to visit the Rocca di Montestaffoli, a medieval fort that was used to control the village. From here, climbing for free on one of the castle towers, you can take beautiful pictures of all San Gimignano towers. Descending from the hill of the fortress, we walk the streets of the centre until we reach the Sant’Agostino Church. Free access to this religious building enables you to appreciate masterpieces of renowned Florentine artists who worked here in the second half of the 15th-century, such as Benozzo Gozzoli – a refined painter pupil of Beato Angelico – and Benedetto da Maiano.
Once the visit of the historical centre is over, it will be time to take a well-deserved break; for lunch what I propose is a stop at a farm located a few kilometres outside the centre. If desired, there is the opportunity to make – on request – a guided tour of both the vineyards and the cellars. In addition, here you can taste the farm’s organic dishes and wines.
Detail of Piazza della Cisterna
The striking internal environment of the Collegiata Church
The taste of Vernaccia
Among these, Vernaccia, the DOCG white wine of San Gimignano, is obviously the most prominent; it has been the first wine to obtain the DOC designation in 1966. Wine tasting can be accompanied by tasting dishes prepared with organic farming ingredients from the same company.
After lunch, what I propose is to go to discover another village in the province of Siena. It is a place that, unfortunately, is not known and appreciated as it occurs with Gimignano but it is absolutely worth visiting: Colle di Val d’Elsa.
The visit of Colle di Val d’Elsa
The picturesque town of Colle di Val d’Elsa rises on the banks of the Elsa river and, during the Middle Ages, was the subject of contention between the ancient rival cities of Florence and Siena; its historic centre stands out for having preserved intact its medieval aspect with its towers and alleys that make it a village to be appreciated by the less superficial tourist. We begin the tour of Colle di Val d’Elsa from the square dedicated to its the most illustrious citizen: Arnolfo di Cambio, great sculptor and architect of the 13th-century who was the author of the former project of the Florence Cathedral. To reach the upper part of the city – the one that most preserves monuments of historical and artistic interest – we pass through a tunnel which, using a medieval link, was transformed by the French contemporary architect Jean Nouvel into a suggestive path to reach the upper area. What we visit in the town are the Cathedral, the Porta Campana and the Porta Salis, the latter is a gate of great monumentality and architectural elegance, made in the current forms during the Renaissance period. We will end our tour of San Gimignano and Colle di Val d’Elsa with a visit to the Cristal Museum. Cristal is a very delicate material of which Colle boasts 95% national production and 15% of world production. But crystal work in Colle is not merely quantitative since what can be appreciated here is a series of masterpieces (temporarily exhibited in the Palazzo dei Priori) that came out from the workshops of expert artisans who still retain the secrets of this truly special art. So, are you ready to leave for this exciting journey between art and history?
The Porta Salis of Colle di Val d’Elsa
Panoramic view of Colle di Val d’Elsa
The stop at the farm is only as a proposal and is not included in the tour fee, as it is an external service. The guide is not a tourist agency, therefore he cannot reserve external services but only give suggestions or procure the contacts of the services themselves.
The cost of museum tickets is not included in the tour fee. In case you do not want to visit the museums, it’s possible to do the tour with an alternative route to the museums.
The guide does not provide transportation service; it is, therefore, necessary to reach each site of the route by its own means of transport.
For organized groups/squadrons, there are drop-off and pick-up points for passengers at each site on the route (click here to view all points on the route).
In the event that you want to contract a transfer service, drivers’ transfer service contacts are provided by writing to: