San Gimignano and its Medieval Towers
San Gimignano, with the famous skyline of its medieval towers, stands on a hill (334m above sea level) overlooking the Elsa valley on the site of a small Etruscan settlement. Its history begins around the tenth century. It takes its name from the canonised Bishop of Modena who saved the town from Totila's invading hordes in the sixth century. It developed considerably during the Middle Ages thanks to the Via Francigena, which runs through the town. In the thirteenth century San Gimignano knew its highest splendour, and there was a remarkable flowering of works of art adorning churches, palaces, and monasteries. Its firm economy benefit the development of a urban aristocratic class who boasted its political power by building the famous towers: of the 72 towers in the fourteenth century, only 14 remain. The terrible plague of 1348 and subsequent fall in population dealt a severe blow to the trading economy of San Gimignano. The deep crisis led the governors of the city to declare their submission to Florence. In the succeeding centuries San Gimignano suffered considerable decline and neglect. The beauty of the town with its stunning architecture and art treasures, however, have led in recent years to an excellent economic and cultural revival. In 1990 the town was also registered in the list of UNESCO's World Cultural and Natural Heritage. San Gimignano is surrounded by gorgeous countryside dotted with vineyards and olive groves. The main typical products of this land are fine wines, such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and saffron, that are produced here since medieval times.