Associazione Strutture ExtraAlberghiere di San Gimignano
The Town Hall
The Town Hall, situated in Piazza del Duomo, was built on the remains of an earlier building between 1289 and 1298. On the left of the present day information office, note the public measurements of long ago: carved in the stone are the “braccio” – about 68 cm, and the “pertica” – about 177 cm. The extension works of the 14th and 15th centuries progressively defined the space of the internal courtyard, subsequently frescoed with the coats-of-arms of people who had held public office in the Municipality. The main building was used both as the house of the Podesta – who for reasons of impartiality was always an outsider – and for holding council meetings. The two upper floors of the complex are the “historical” headquarters of the San Gimignano Civic Museums, and have been since 1853. The exhibition itinerary includes a visit to the Town Hall, one of the oldest public buildings in Tuscany. It is decorated with famous fresco cycles such as scenes on the theme of love by Memmo di Filippuccio, in the “Podesta’s room”, while in the Dante room, formerly the Council Chamber, there are hunting scenes and tournaments, attributed to the painter Azzo di Masetto, and Lippo Memmi’s great Majesty. In his capacity as Guelph ambassador Dante spoke from the balcony of the Town Hall on 8th May 1300.
The visit continues with the Picture Gallery where you can see all the important phases of San Gimignano’s artistic history. From the Florentines (Coppo di Marcovaldo, Azzo di Masetto) and Sienese (Rinaldo) of the second half of the 13th century to the great Sienese period of the second half of the 14th (Memmo di Filippuccio, Lippo Memmi, Niccolò di Ser Sozzo); from the alternation of Sienese and Florentines between the 14th and 15th centuries (Taddeo di Bartolo, Lorenzo di Niccolò, “Master of 1419”) to the definitive prevalence of the Florentines (Filippino Lippi, Benozzo Bozzoli, Sebastiano Mainardi) who contributed to San Gimignano’s renaissance renewal. The culmination was the peak achievement of Pinturicchio’s great altar-piece, painted in 1511.
You can also visit the Torre Grossa, the highest tower in the town, and enjoy a great view, ranging from the old town centre to the surrounding countryside of the Valdelsa, the Pistoia mountains and the Apuan Alps.
The Old Palazzo del Podesta
Palazzo Chigi-Useppi and the old Palazzo del Podesta, with the “Scabby” tower, stands opposite the Duomo. Beneath the palazzo itself – whose lower and upper parts are in stone and brick respectively – there is a spacious entrance with stone benches and, at the far end, a 1513 Sodoma fresco of the Virgin and Child with Saints Geminianus and Nicholas. There is also a large door giving access to the little Teatro dei Leggieri, rebuilt on the remains of another theatre built in 1534 and redone in 1794. When the Podesta moved into the new Town Hall, built next to the Duomo in 1298, the old palazzo was used first as a lodging for illustrious guests and later as a public school for boys.
La Piazza della Cisterna
Going through the arch called Arco dei Becci e dei Cugnanesi you come to Piazza della Cisterna (Cistern) which was once full of shops, workshops and taverns. It got its present name from the octagonal well in travertine that stands at the centre. The Piazza was built in 1273 and subsequently extended in 1346 by the Podesta Guccio dei Malavolti whose coat-of-arms, a stairway, is carved on the stone of the well. It was originally called Piazza delle Taverne and later Piazza dell’Olmo (Elm) after a great tree that once stood there. Palazzos and towers, alternating in a rare harmony of volumes and spaces, surround the irregularly triangular brick paving that narrows towards Via del Castello.
Overlooking the piazza on the right, if you face Via del Castello, you’ll see: palazzo Tortoli with its four elegant 14th century two-light windows; the truncated Pucci tower, named after the family who owned it between the 19th and 20th centuries; the palazzo that belonged to the Cetti and Bracceri families; palazzo Ridolfi and the towers and houses of the Becci and Cugnanesi families; palazzo Pellari and, with its two towers, palazzo Ardinghelli. On the other side of the piazza, palazzo Lupi with the Torre del Diavolo (Devil’s Tower): it is said that the owner, returning from a long journey, found that it had inexplicably become higher and put this down to demonic intervention. Then the 15th century palazzo Cortesi-Lolli, built on older buildings whose traces can be seen in the stone of ancient towers.
Santa Fina’s House
From Via del Castello an alleyway on the right leads after a short walk to Santa Fina’s House.
The very young saint had suffered a long series of physical and moral tribulations which she accepted for love of Christ. She spent much of her brief life immobilised on a wooden pallet in the cellar of her humble house. The house is now a chapel that may be visited on her feast day, 12th March. It is said that just prior to her death St Gregory appeared before her to say that her earthly sufferings were about to end. It is also said that after her death the church bells began to toll, rung by angels. Special flowers, commonly known as “Santa Fina violets”, bloomed on the towers and walls. You can still see them on her feast day, growing on the towers. This girl, who actually lived in San Gimignano, was never beatified by the church but is nonetheless a saint in the hearts and prayers of San Gimignano people.
La Rocca di Montestaffoli
From Piazza del Duomo, proceeding to the right of the Duomo itself and crossing the lovely Piazza delle Erbe, you come to the Rocca di Montestaffoli. This fortress was built by the Florentines in 1353, exactly when San Gimignano submitted to Florence, in order to repel any attacks from Siena or put down internal rebellions. The troops billeted there were trained by a Florentine commander. The fortress was built to a pentagonal plan with turrets at the corners and links with the imposing city walls. It was defended by a moat, portcullis and drawbridge. From the only functional turret still remaining (known as the torrino), you can enjoy an extraordinary view of the old town towers and the surrounding countryside. During the third weekend of June the Rocca hosts the “Stick Jousting” Tournament as part of the mediaeval festival “Harvest Holidays” .
Before leaving Via Francigena by way of Porta San Matteo, situated on the north side of the road, if you turn right into Via Cellolese you arrive in the splendid Piazza Sant’Agostino. The cistern in the centre is framed by the splendid church of Sant’Agostino, with the annexed monastery complex and the small Romanesque church of San Pietro in Forliano.
San Gimignano Guide
Introduction San Gimignano
To Visit at San Gimignano
Events in San Gimignano
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