Tuscany areas:Florence Siena Lucca Chianti San Gimignano Arezzo Pisa Versilia Cortona Montecatini Garfagnana
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San Gimignano is probably the most famous small town in Italy, and there are few places that evoke the atmosphere of mediaeval Tuscany so powerfully. Only fifteen of the original seventy-two towers survive - towers that represented wealth and influence more than defence and security - the higher the tower, the richer your family.
Probably the most famous small town in Italy, San Gimignano dominates the Val d'Elsa with its dramatic skyline bristling with towers. It was founded by the Etruscans and grew rich from agriculture as well as being an important resting place on the pilgrim way to Rome. The population was devastated by the plague in the fourteenth century, and its economy collapsed as the pilgrim trade all but vanished.
Further plague decimation in the fifteenth and seventeenth century left the town as a poor backwater, and it is only during this century that the town and surrounding countryside have regained their wealth, thanks to tourism and the famous white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
The town really does live up to expectations; it is immaculately preserved and surrounded by some of the loveliest countryside in Tuscany. However, what you may not be expecting is just how popular a tourist destination the town is. It is utterly packed with tourists throughout the summer months (do try to visit out of season), and the atmosphere of quiet rural village is hard to maintain. This should not though deter you from visiting, just be prepared for the crowds. Why not try to stay overnight? - most visitors are day-trippers, and the town is a very different beast at night.