Day Trip to San Gimignano
Driving past the Tuscan countryside on the way to San Gimignano, I had the chance to reflect and realize how lucky I am to be studying in one of the most beautiful places in Europe – truly, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Tuscany is a place home to so many hidden gems of beautiful medieval and renaissance cities while also holding beautiful sights of rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Once we arrived in San Gimignano and saw the incredible view from this small mountain town, it reaffirmed my intense love for Tuscany.
Our tour guide explained to us that San Gimignano is known for saffron and a special white wine that is the only wine certified in the Siena region – Vernaccia di San Gimignano. In a local store, I was able to buy saffron balsamic and a bottle of Vernaccia for only €4.90.
San Gimignano got on the map since it used to be a stop along Via Francigena, a special path for Catholic pilgrims that led from from France to Rome during the Roman Empire. Florence and Pisa were not even along this frequently traveled pathway, but mountain towns like San Gimignano and Siena were, so they experienced many visitors that stopped on their treks to Rome. The town is a UNESCO world heritage site and is home to a mere 8,000 inhabitants.
This city was home to many prisons in the ancient times, and was known as the Manhattan of the Middle Ages due to its high towers and beautiful skyline unlike other Tuscan towns at the time.
We also learned why the town is called San Gimignano: when King Gimignano from Modena died, the townspeople took his ring as an offering and that ring started performing miracles so they renamed the city in honor of him as a saint for his ring’s actions.
Our tour guide finished in Piazza della Cisterna, which is named because of the well in the center of the square, and pointed out the famous Gelateria Dondoli which is known as the best gelateria in the world since it won the gelato world cup two years in a row.
For lunch after our tour, we dined at Trattoria Chiribiri at the suggestion of our tour guide. My friends and I split an antipasti platter, which surprisingly, was my first order of antipasti all semester.
I became the victim of a poor translation error as I was excited to try Pumpkin Ravioli, which is what it had said on the menu, but then I was confused and disappointed when I was served zucchini ravioli. I realized that unfortunately the Italian word for “pumpkin” is zucca, but it also (somehow) means zucchini I suppose since although the English menu had said pumpkin ravioli, the restaurant and chef had intended to write zucchini. Regardless, the ravioli was fresh and tasty. Although the restaurant had great offerings for dessert, we opted out since we knew bakeries and a famous gelateria awaited us on the streets of San Gimignano.
I stopped at a bakery and tried a little bit of everything: Ricciarelli, Brutti Ma Buoni, Pinolini, Mezze’lune, and Cavallucci, which were all fresh and delicious, as expected.
The main food event of the day was definitely Gelateria Dondoli. There was an abundance of amazing, unique, intricate flavors and I could easily see why this gelateria had earned such high acclaim.
I can’t even remember exactly which flavors I ordered because you were able to get up to 5 different flavors in one cone and the gelateria was so crowded that I chose my 5 flavors in a frenzy, but I do remember that Lycheee Rose was by far the freshest and most delicious flavor out of the ones I tried. The flavor that won the Gelato World Championship and was selected as the Best Gelato of Tuscany is Crema di Santa Fina, which I also tried and thought was definitely deserving of the title, but not a flavor I would normally prefer with my personal tastes.
In the afternoon, we had a guided tour of Galleria Continua courtesy of NYU. The gallery was full of contemporary art that was thought-provoking and related to social issues. As a fan of art galleries, especially ones with deep and topical meanings, I enjoyed the exhibits although the tour did feel a bit drawn out.
San Gimignano is the perfect day trip – full of breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside; incredible food, wine, and gelato; and pretty architecture and art throughout the city.