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The towers of San Gimignano

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The view of this small town built on one of the on one of the most important medieval pilgrimage routes in Italy (via Francigena, from Canterbury to Rome) was certainly not a unique sight for the Medieval visitors. It was common at the time for rich and powerful families to build tall fortified towers to protect themselves from possible enemies and, mostly, to show their wealth and importance. Merchants families were competing in some kind of contest to build the highest and most splendid tower. Just one rule had to be followed: no tower could be higher than the communal one (the Rognosa tower). Having a tower was status-symbol so important for the San Gimignano’s families that, at the peak of this practice, contributed to the construction of 72 towers.

Now the skyline of San Gimignano, 56 kilometres south of Florence in Val d’Elsa, stands out as one of the few remaining examples of this old Italian tradition. Its fourteen towers don’t just give the town its characteristic and vivid feudal look but also its international relevance.

The town developed around two main squares: the triangular Piazza della Cisterna, ornamented with a lovely central well, and the Piazza Duomo, dating from the late 13th century with its more intricate layout containing the majority of public and private monuments.

San Gimignano is a cultural site of exceptional value, since it has maintained its architectural homogeneity and its original urban layout.


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The author

Federico Spadoni

Federico Spadoni

I am Federico, I was born and raised in Italy. Sport and news fanatic and active volunteer. I am currently living in Athens, Greece. I write about the central parts of Italy.

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