Certaldo to San Gimignano

San Gimignano (wikipedia page) is a beautiful medieval town, marked by its many towers. Rich men of the city used to build them to show their wealth. At one point there were over 70, but advertising so much wealth turned out not to be such a great idea, so they thinned out the number, leaving fourteen. Which still makes for a distinctive skyline.

San Gimignano from the valley below, several towers appear small above an olive grove
Several towers from the valley below.

My hostel offered a there-and-back lift for 15 euros, or bike hire for 10. But it is only 11km. Assuming you go by the shortest route, for which you ought to download Maps.me, which marks dirt roads and footpaths that other maps have not yet heard of, and works offline. I missed a right turn onto a dirt road, distracted by tackling the hill ahead of me, so did over 12k to get there. And an unnecessary hill. But it was still a great jaunt, and the hard work is toward the end.

It’s perfectly walkable, too, if you fancy it. There’s a cruel valley towards the end, just as San Gimignano comes into view you are taken down on a winding road, past a factory or two, losing height only to have to regain it immediately.

San Gimignano's towers in the distance, nascent olive grove in the foreground
A very distant view of San Gimignano. Having run 9km or so by now, this was more exciting than it looks.

The town is full of tourists. It isn’t tiny, so there’s room to move, even on an Easter Sunday, but you definitely know you are in a major attraction. I arrived just after 11, so finding a quiet restaurant was easy. I ordered in simple Italian, and was under no illusion that the server thought I was Italian. I was, however, surprised when she complimented the other two patrons, two ladies from Michigan, on their “lovely, upright, British accents”. Hello? British person right here! I had a quick chat with the ladies on my way out, and we departed in a flurry of mutual accent appreciation.

Wandering the lanes is a pleasure. And a workout in itself, as not all of them are flat, by any means. If you want to take a shortcut, then you’ll probably climb or descend a side-alley fairly precipitously.

There is a combined ticket for the museums, for 9 euros, or a wider one, at 13 euros, allowing access to several different places in the city. I took neither, happy to let lunch settle and then use the energy to return.

Apart from the towns, the rolling hills and the distinctive brick and tile houses, I have been fascinated by the ruined buildings. Some are obviously farmhouses, untended and unloved. Others are larger, pointing to abandoned factory work.

However you get there, San Gimignano is beautiful and worth a look. But don’t forget to poke about in the landscape around it if at all possible.

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