Associazione Strutture ExtraAlberghiere di San Gimignano
Other documents show that in 759 AD Desiderius II, the last king of the Lombards, built his own house near the above castle (today Palazzo–Torre Nomi Venerosi Pesciolini) and subsequently had the second circle of city walls built, granting the municipality extensive exemptions and privileges (as a reward for its hospitality) but maintaining political supremacy. The name San Gimignano appeared for the first time on 30th August 929 AD in a document in which Ugo, King of Italy, donated to Adelardo, Bishop of Volterra, a place called "Il Monte della Torre" near San Gimignano. In 991 AD this place was mentioned as Castello del Vescovo, the Bishop's Castle, (today the former prison), and later became a Dominican monastery.
In 1099 San Gimignano began a series of bloody struggles with Volterra in rebellion against the rule of the "Bishop-Count" who at that time was the feudal lord of various castles in the area. The resulting war lasted no less than 30 years. Today's place names help us to identify where the battles were fought: on the nearby hill Poggio del Cornocchio, at the boundary between the two towns, a clearing in the wood is still called "Campo alla Battaglia" (Battlefield). In 1199 San Gimignano established itself as a free municipality and remained so until 1354 when it came under Florentine rule. The importance and wealth of this land were mainly due to the Via Francigena or Via Romea, along which Charlemagne himself is said to have passed. Via Francigena was the pilgrims' road that "Led south to Rome and north to Santiago de Compostela". Moreover it was crossed by various "salt transport" roads and actually led to the port of Pisa where the San Gimignano merchants had their import-export warehouses. The most flourishing trade involved "vingreco" (a wine made from muscatel grapes), saffron and Vernaccia. This last was highly appreciated by Pope Martinus IV who claimed from the municipality an appropriate number of "demijohns" of the said nectar to "wash down" the eels fished in the Lake of Bolsena.
In the 12th century, the period of greatest splendour, the municipality offered hospitality to anyone who asked, especially to political exiles from other cities. If they "behaved well for at least five years" they were also given permission to build their own house or palazzo and, in the case of the richest, also storehouse-towers.
Daily life in those days was punctuated by the sound of bells: the salt bell, the bank bell, the fire bell and the bread bell which tolled when a deceased rich man, to save his soul in the hereafter, had left money for the distribution of bread to the poor people of the town. For tradition's sake the evening curfew bell is still rung today – at 9 o'clock in winter, 10 o'clock in summer – from the Torre Grossa of the Town Hall. Moreover, every palazzo had a well or cistern to supply water for family and animals. Up to the last century there were still 105 in the old town centre alone. In 1355 San Gimignano had no less than 72 towers, a symbol of wealth and prestige for their owners. Today, as a memory of a glorious past, only 15 remain, plus 2 tower-palazzos.
San Gimignano Guide
Introduction San Gimignano
To Visit at San Gimignano
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Associazione Strutture Extralberghiere San Gimignano
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