Sightseeing Tours of Siena San Gimignano Monteriggioni and San Galgano Abbey

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San Galgano Abbey

San Galgano Abbey - Exterior
San Galgano Abbey - Side ViewSan Galgano Abbey - ViewSan Galgano Abbey - Interior

The Abbey of San Galgano is a Gothic monastery dedicated to San Galgano, located in the province of Siena.

The first monastery was built at the end of the 12th century as a mausoleum for Saint Galgano. The most important building was the Rotonda of Saint Galgano erected to protect the tomb and the legendary Rock with the Sword. The legend says that when the young Galgano decided to abandon his dissolute life he planted his sword in a rock as a cross. The Rotonda was heavily remodeled several times and only a restoration in 1924 brought it back to its original look.

The cult of Saint Galgano grew in popularity quickly so it was decided to build a new Abbey. Its construction started at the beginning of the 13th century, it took almost sixty years to be completed. Immediately the Abbey became very wealthy and formed an alliance with the close Republic of Siena.

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The monks thought that the city would have protected them from armies and invaders. However Siena wasn’t able to defend the Abbey and in less than a century the monastery was sacked and left in ruin. At the end of the 18th century the campanile and the roof of the church felt down. The inhabitants of the surrounding cities started to sack what was left for building material.

Finally during the 19th century the monastery was partly restored; however only the Abbey’s walls still stand.

La Collegiata – San Gimignano

San Gimignano - La Collegiata - Fresco
San Gimignano - La Collegiata - InteriorSan Gimignano - view from the topSan Gimignano - day view

The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta, simply called the Collegiata, is the most important church of San Gimignano. Located in Piazza Duomo it is mostly famous for its stunning frescoes’ cycles by Ghirlandaio, Gozzoli, Di Bartolo and many other important artists. In 1990 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in particular the frescoes were described as “works of outstanding beauty”.

The original church was built around the 10th century and dedicated to San Gimignano, its remains are buried here. However in less the two centuries the importance of the city had grown so much that a new church was needed. In the following centuries many statues and frescoes were added.

The Collegiate was built in Romanesque style, except the two chapels added later in the Renaissance style. The façade is very simple, there are two doors on the side and no central portal.

The interior is characterized by the use of colors: the nave colonnades are decorated with black and white marble, the volt is painted with lapis lazuli and gold stars.

The famous frescoes were added mostly during the 14th century. They are divided in cycles: Old Testament, New Testament, Last Judgement, Annunciation, San Sebastian and the one dedicated to the local Saint Fina. The different artists, all coming from the Sienese School, were deeply influenced by the Byzantine style and the Giotto’s renaissance style.

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Also one of the Collegiata’s Chapel was dedicated to the local Saint Fina. The legend says that when this young girls passed many miracles occurred. The chapel is considered a stunning example of the Renaissance style.

During the Second World War the church was seriously damaged, luckily a restoration in 1951 bring it back to its original splendor.

Monteriggioni

Monteriggioni - Panorama
Monteriggioni - PortaMonteriggioni - PiazzaMonteriggioni - Piazza Roma

Monteriggioni is a beautiful medieval town located in the province of Siena. The villages was built, at the beginning of the 13th century, on a hill by the Republic of Siena in order to protect the territory by the attacks of the Florentine’s army. In 1554 the Sienese thought they had secured the villages under their dominion thank to the help of a Florentine’s exile Giovannino Zeti. However Zeti betrayed them and soon handed the city to the Medici Family.

The city was fortified in 1213: the walls were built following the outlines of the hill forming almost a circle. Fourteen towers and two gates were added. The Porta Fiorentina is located on the northern side of the walls facing Florence, while the Porta Romana is located south facing Rome. Monteriggioni’s main street connects the two gates.

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The most important square of the town is Piazza Roma. Here it is possible to admire a Romanesque Church and the Palaces built by the wealthy people of Monteriggioni during the Renaissance period. On the side streets there are many little beautiful gardens once used to feed the population during the wars.

San Gimignano

San Gimignano - tetti
San Gimignano - panoramaSan Gimignano - palazziSan Gimignano - view from the top

Located in the province of Siena in Tuscany is San Gimignano, a small medieval hill town surrounded by a lush green landscape. Famous for its architecture and the many towers that mark its unmistakable skyline, San Gimignano is a fascinating town well worth the visit.

The walled town grew around the Church of San Gimignano, later nicknamed Castle San Gimignano, during the 6th century, adopting its name. During the middle ages, the town was located right along Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrim route, and as a result became a popular stopping point for travelers. The richness of the land around San Gimignano also influenced its importance and wealth, birthing an active trade industry.

Things to see

In 1200, San Gimignano claimed independence from the bishops of Volterra, who had ruled it up to this point. Many churches and public buildings were erected during this time. Between the 12th and 14th centuries, during a period of conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, the wealthy families of the town built tower houses, one more impressive than the last, to both defend their land and rival each other. By the end of the medieval period, there were 72 towers, the tallest reaching nearly 70 meters in height. Although San Gimignano escaped destruction from wars, catastrophes or urbanization, sadly only fourteen of these towers remain standing today.

Other notable examples of the medieval architecture of the town are the historic city centre, deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990, the Piazza della Cisterna, and the Palazzo Comunale. The two biggest churches, the Collegiata in the Piazza del Duomo and the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, both contain beautiful frescoes and other important artworks by artists such as Domenico Ghirlandaio, Benozzo Gozzoli and Taddeo di Bartolo.