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San Gimignano

Conveniently located just off the highway between Florence and Siena, San Gimignano is one of the most heavily-touristed hill towns in Tuscany. This so-called Manhattan of Tuscany, with 14 of its original 72 towers remaining, cuts a striking profile when approached from the east.

Arriving at this medieval Disneyland in the afternoon, one can be overwhelmed by the crowds meandering up Via San Giovanni to Piazza della Cisterna. The town seems comprised of nothing but gelato and food stores separated only by shops selling an endless array of artisan wares. One cannot help but wonder if any Tuscans actually live here. But spend the night, or arrive early in the morning, or venture even slightly off the beaten path, and San Gimignano reveals its charms. The pristine restored buildings may not be of original medieval design, but they are picturesque, and San Gimignano looks the part of the quintessential Tuscan hill town. It is left up to the visitor to decide whether this is true or not.