Via Francigena

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San Miniato

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San Miniato is an enchanting little town located in the beautiful Tuscany region.

The first settlement in the area go back to the Paleolithic era. Both Etruscans and Romans have lived here. During the medieval period the city was crossed by the via Francigena, the most important route among Rome and Northern Europe. Many armies passed by together with merchants and travelers. Under the Frederick Barbarossa domination the city was fortified with walls and towers. During the first half of the 13th century San Miniato passed under the Florentine dominion until 1860 when it was annexed in the newly born Italian Kingdom.

This small village has a lot to offers to its visitors. Famous is the 13th century Tower of Frederick, from which it is possible to enjoy a breath-taking view of the Valdarno. The tower was destroyed by the Nazi during the Second World War but luckily it was rebuilt in the late ’50. The Cathedral of Sant’Assunta and San Genesio, also simply known as Duomo di San Miniato, has a unique façade decorated with majolica bowls. The church was initially built in Romanesque style, it was later remodeled several times, and today we can see also a Gothic and Renaissance influence. The Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall) was built during the 14th century and has a beautiful great hall. The building is still used as San Miniato’s City Hall! Worth a visit are the Church of San Francesco and the Church of San Domenico both built between the 13th and 14th century. Visitors of San Miniato can also enjoy the view of many beautiful Palazzi built during the Renaissance Period by the local aristocratic families.

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San Miniato is mostly known around the world for the white truffles, which is possible to find in the area around the town. The white truffle is even more valuable than the black one. The month of November is dedicated to this precious truffle with a three weeks long festival.

In 1954 an incredible 2.5 kg white truffle was found and it was sent as a gift to the United States President Eisenhower!

 

San Gimignano

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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.

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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.