The town of fine towers is located in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. San Gimignano, a walled medieval town, is known for its many towers, of which 14 remain. The historic centre of town (the Piazza della Cisterna) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But let’s skip back a bit, shall we? The village was founded in the 3rd century BC, and gradually grew larger – in the 1st century AD, not one, but two castles were built! Eventually, the city grew large enough to become walled. Later on, it became a stopping point for pilgrims making their way to Rome via the Via Francigena. In 1348, more than half of the town’s population was wiped out by the Black Death; this moved the town to submit to be ruled by the neighboring town of Florence. Under the Florentine rule, most of the towers were reduced to regular houses (alas!).
- Watch this video on San Gimignano by travel writer Rick Steves. What surprises you about the town? Do you think that tourism is one of the only ways such medieval cities can thrive today? What effect does tourism have on the city – the roads, walkways, piazzas, and buildings?
- Look at these beautiful photos of San Gimignano, and then take a virtual 360 tour of the city. What do you feel it would be like, to live in such an ancient city?
- Imagine juxtaposing contemporary art on medieval facades – can it be done? Indeed! Check out this map of the contemporary art in San Gimignano and hover over the green dots. Which ones are your favorites? If you were to design a piece of contemporary art for this town, what would you create?