Even though it’s one of the smaller gems in Tuscany, San Gimignano is no less grand than other cities in this region of Italy. It’s the perfect day trip destination, offers some of the best gelato in the world, a captivating Duomo, and of course, that beautiful view of the Tuscan hillside. We know other travelers who have done Siena and San Gimignano in the same day, but we don’t think that’s the best thing to do.
Trust us, you don’t want to feel hurried to leave such a beautiful place and both cities deserve plenty of time. In this post, we talk about when to visit, how to get there, things to see, and what to eat in San Gimignano! Gelato, anyone?
San Gimignano was one of ouy many stops in Italy. Check out our 2 week Italy itinerary to help plan your perfect Italian escape!
Best Time to Visit San Gimignano
Since the summer is synonymous with tourist season we recommend avoiding San Gimignano during this time of year. Our visit was in early September, right on the edge of high/shoulder season and it was perfect. That said, we’re certain October/November and spring would be wonderful as well.
What time of day should you visit? Since the afternoon is usually full of tour groups, we advise the morning or evening. However, our personal experience was in the late afternoon and evening and we think that’s the best time of day to go. The sun sets, the lights come on, and all the picturesque narrow streets come alive.
How to Get To San Gimignano
San Gimignano is not reachable by train so you’re going to want to take a bus. Of course, if you have a car then you’re good to go but a bus is a cheap and easy option in this instance. We came by bus from Poggibonsi, which has a train station. So, if coming from Siena, you can either take a train most of the way to Poggibonsi then bus, or bus directly.
If coming from Florence, there is no direct bus. That said, you can bus or train to Poggibonsi and get a connecting bus from there.
Pro Tip: Be sure to buy round trip tickets for your bus ride. If not, it’s ok, you just have to find a tobacco shop (tabaccheria) in San Gimignano to purchase your return ticket.
Important Things to Note
San Gimignano is a small town with a lot of history and there are a lot of things to see. With that, you’ll have to pay for many of the attractions. The prices aren’t going to break the bank but we’d like to help save you some money so you can spend it on that tasty gelato instead!
We began our time in San Gimignano at the Duomo (cathedral), but we should have started at the Town Hall and Tower (more on that below). The tower ticket office offered a pass (13 Euros per person) for several attractions, including the Duomo and Tower, which would have saved us money in the long run. Instead, we paid for the Duomo separately and did not see any kind of pass for purchase at the Duomo’s ticket office.
We were staying in a nearby town, Poggibonsi, just a 20-30 minute bus ride away. After we finished teaching English online, we made our way to San Gimignano. While you only need a few hours to see this town, we recommend a half day at least to really soak it all in and not feel rushed. Our late afternoon and evening gave us ample time to see everything at a relaxing pace.
San Gimignano Town Hall and Tower
The most talked about view in town, begin your memorable visit to San Gimignano with a spectacular view of town and the Tuscan countryside. The climb is tough but just remember that you’re burning off the calories for that award-winning gelato down below.
What can we say? We love gelato. We eat it anywhere it’s available. And Gelateria Dondoli is some of the best we’ve had. It comes as no surprise. The man behind this delicious operation, Sergio, has won some prestigious awards and is a world ice cream champion.
This gelato probably costs a little more than your usual cone and cream elsewhere, but it’s a huge helping and to die for. If you visit in the evening, the line shouldn’t be long. However, depending on the day, it can be a long wait since it’s famous! Still worth it. Admire the Piazza Della Cisterna around you while you wait.
Piazza Della Cisterna
We call it the Gelato Piazza because there are two gelaterias in this square, both very popular and both boasting world-best gelato (you be the judge). There are some great spots for pictures in this area and there’s a well that really draws a crowd. This piazza connects to the main square, Piazza Del Duomo.
Make Some Gelato!
Okay, we’ll stop talking about gelato and move on to the other cool things to see and do in San Gimignano but only after we mention that Gelateria Dondoli offers gelato classes. If you’re spending a full day or more in town then we think you should check it out. It would be fun for any kind of traveler! Be sure to reserve a spot in advance!
Piazza Del Duomo
One of the most scenic spots in San Gimignano, this is the best place to enjoy your gelato. Have a seat on the cathedral steps and let this historic square wash over you. After you finish your gelato, head inside the Duomo!
San Gimignano Duomo (Cathedral)
This is the place you want to visit in San Gimignano. Anyone who appreciates history and art should step inside this amazing church. The walls are completely covered in frescoes, telling story upon story, following the timeline of both old and new testaments and and the detail is truly stunning.
The best part? The entrance fee includes the audio guide so don’t forget to pick it up! It’s around 20-30 minutes, very to the point and it really helps you understand why this is a special place.
While La Bottega isn’t fancy, it leaves nothing to be desired. Located off the main street, this small establishment will fill you up on some great Tuscan meats and breads and let you finish it off with some Chianti Classico for 5 euros. For travelers on a budget like us, this is unbeatable in a popular town like San Gimignano. Of course, if you’re wanting a more complete dinner then you have plenty of options along the main avenue.
Sample the Local Delights
There are so many shops scattered about town. We’re talking really cool shops. Even though we didn’t buy anything or go into every single one, we encourage you to check them out. These are so unique and charming that it’s like checking out a museum of smoked meats, cheeses, and wines. Well worth a visit but be prepared to pay more than your local market!
Everyone talks about the San Gimignano Duomo (rightfully so) but the less visited, yet still beautiful Sant’Agostino Church deserves a walk through. According to the info inside, this is where the oldest fresco in San Gimignano resides. Be sure to step inside the courtyard and enjoy some peace away from the crowds. The piazza out front is also lovely, especially when the sun begins its descent.
Museum of Sacred Art
This is included in the pass with the Duomo and tower and you should definitely head inside. There are pieces here from the 13th and 14th century, including woodwork, paintings, and other craftsmanship.
Wander the Narrow Streets and Outskirts
Of course, a big reason for spending more than just a few hours in San Gimignano is the city itself. As the afternoon cooled and the evening approached, we wandered the streets at our own pace. There were far less people and we found some pretty awesome views of the surrounding area as well. There were also plenty of places to have a seat and just absorb it all.
House of Saint Fina – Patron Saint of San Gimignano
The story of Saint Fina, the patron saint of San Gimignano, is a very sad tale. Dating back to the 13th century, her story is one that’s very old and essential to this town. You’ll find a relic of hers in the Duomo but better yet, you can see the house where she lived. Apparently, it’s only viewable on the 12th of March so we didn’t see it. However, stumbling upon this house by accident (we were just wandering through town) was a pleasant experience.
Summary of Our Guide for Things to Do in San Gimignano
There are tours galore that will hit San Gimignano and Siena in one day; most people only stay for a couple hours. We honestly think they’re really missing out on one of Tuscany’s coolest towns. Discover this enchanting town at your own pace, eat the world famous gelato, see the art and churches, and go back in time
Looking for more things to do in Tuscany? We found a special family owned vineyard tucked away in the hills of Chianti not far from San Gimignano! Check out our post on an organic wine and olive oil tasting experience for the details!
We hope this guide has been helpful and inspires you to visit!