24 Hours in San Gimignano
Friends, hi! Welcome to the second post in my five-part segment about all things Tuscany: 24 Hours in San Gimignano! Last month, I shared An Ode to Florence and today I’m sharing everything we loved about the hilltop town of San Gimignano.
The Historic Centre of San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s easy to see why. Walking through the gates into the walled town you find yourself surrounded by the remaining 14 medieval towers, not to mention the rolling hills. It’s beautiful, charming, and so quaint.
This was our first time visiting San Gimignano together & we loved it. One major draw for us was how ideally located it is; it’s the perfect pit-stop en route from Florence to Siena! Another big draw was the gelato scene – some of the best in the world, literally. Apart from a brief nap, we spent all our time eating, drinking, and exploring the winding side streets.
Below is a comprehensive list of everything you might need to know about visiting San Gimignano. I’ve included recommendations on where to stay, eat, drink, and what to do. I’ve also included some details to take into consideration before your trip, as well as information about how to get there.
BEFORE YOU VISIT
These are a few of the things we had to take into consideration before we finalised our trip to San Gimignano. I would highly recommend you think over some of these factors, too, as they could have a big impact:
– we decided to spend one night in town to avoid the vast majority of tourists. Most of the large tour groups arrive around 11am and clear off around 5pm, after which time the town mostly empties out. Would highly recommend.
– relying solely on public transport, we planned our trip to San Gimignano to fall on a Friday because there are significantly more options on the weekend. Be sure to check out all the timetables on SITA before planning your journey.
– if you are traveling by car, be aware of the rules surrounding driving through the town, as well as parking locations. They are strict about where you can access/park and they fine heavily.
– all of the good restaurants in town book up super early! In order to avoid disappointment, be sure to book your dinner reservation in advance. We had to go with our third choice of restaurant, even though we booked a month in advance. You have been warned.
This is not the most straightforward place to get to using public transport – you really need to plan your route in advance. I found the whole experience extremely confusing, but that appears to be the norm with public transport in Italy. These are the steps we took to get from Florence to San Gimignano:
– from the SITA bus station in Florence, we bought tickets to San Gimignano. The ticket clerk pointed out the platform for us to wait at. The bus we boarded only brought us as far as Poggibonsi train station, where we had to get off and wait for another bus. This first leg of the journey took about 50-minutes.
– in Poggibonsi, I began to panic after we’d been waiting for over 20-minutes & there was still no sign of the bus. Eventually, a notice appeared on one of the screens at a stop nearby announcing a bus due in 5-minutes. Using the same bus ticket as before, we boarded bus #130 towards San Gimignano. This journey took about 15-minutes.
– the bus dropped us at the main gate into San Gimignano & we followed the mass of people up into the main square.
For more detailed instructions with pictures, I found this guide to be so incredibly helpful.
24 HOURS IN SAN GIMIGNANO: DAY 1
12:30 check in @ Hotel Leon Bianco
Admittedly, a rather bare bones kind of hotel, but the location is insane. Literally sitting smack bam in the centre of the main square, this hotel is within 5-minutes walking distance to anywhere you’ll want to go. Added bonus: you get a free bottle of wine if you book directly through their website!
13:00 Lunch @ RiccaPizza
On behalf of our rumbling stomachs, Boyfriend was doing some serious google-ing during our two bus journeys into town. He came up with one unanimous result: RiccaPizza do the best pizza slices in town. Thankfully, they serve huge fresh-from-the-oven slices that are delicious and mercifully cheap. We practically inhaled ours.
13:30 Gelato @ Gelateria Dondoli
The world famous gelato master! We managed to be served within just 10-minutes of joining the queue, which is almost unheard of. Definitely worth a longer wait, this was some of the creamiest gelato we’ve ever had. I can personally vouch for the pistachio & the hazelnut, both of which were outstanding. A must-visit.
14:30 Beer @ Echoes
Another find of Boyfriend’s transit google-ing, Echoes is located at the far gates of the town. We got chatting to the owner – a rather cool, older man – and he instructed us about the correct way to pour beer, which pretty much everyone does wrong! The trick is to pour it straight in & wait for the foam to subside before drinking – not to pour down the side of the glass as is commonly believed.
17:30 Culture @ Duomo di San Gimignano
After a brief nap in the hotel, we were ready to visit the local duomo. Spoiler alert: it is beautiful inside, with large frescoes lining the walls and ceilings. Pro tip: make sure you’re covered up properly or you’ll risk having to wear a long makeshift cloak. It is not attractive. I speak from experience. A must-visit.
18:20 Aperitivo @ Enoteca Gustavo Mescita Vini
A buzzy little spot right on the main street through town. We stopped by for a couple Aperol spritzes before dinner & watched the world go by. It was perfect. A must-visit; here or similar nearby.
19:20 Watch the sunset @ Porta San Matteo
Although we hadn’t actually planned to watch the sunset, we spotted the viewing point on our walk to dinner and couldn’t resist. It was quite breathtaking, and we would have stayed to watch night fall entirely if it hadn’t been for our reservation.
19:30 Dinner @ Peruca
Located a little bit farther away from the main thoroughfare, Peruca is a traditional style restaurant with a cave-like interior. We enjoyed local delights such as wild boar & tomato soup, accompanied with a delicious chianti classico. For dessert we indulged in a wonderful Tuscan cheese plate, served with local honeys & jams.
21:45 Nightcap @ Hotel la Cisterna
Located across the main square from our hotel, we stopped here for one final drink before bed. We opted to enjoy our nightcaps – Vernaccia di San Gimignano for me, bourbon for Boyfriend – sitting out on the square, absorbing the buzz from a nearby busking group. It was all at once romantic and magical.
24 Hours in San Gimignano: DAY 2
6:30 get up to watch the sunrise!
This is something we try to do in every new-to-us destination and it was especially magic in San Gimignano. Before our eyes, the sky changed from vibrant purple to lukewarm orange over the misty rolling hills in the distance. Honestly, it’s my favourite memory from our short time there, and it is 100% worth the effort of dragging yourself out of bed. A must-do experience.
7:00 First breakfast @ Caffe de Boboli
Admittedly, this was the only place open after our jaunt around town chasing the sunrise, but the coffees and the pastries were lovely nonetheless. We enjoyed ours at the bar for a more traditionally Italian experience, but they seemed pretty lax about letting people sit down for the same price.
10:30 Second breakfast @ Armando e Marcella
Handily located just on the outside of the town gates, this is an ideal pit-stop on the way to the bus. We ambled inside with all of our luggage & were greeted by a cafe that doesn’t look as though it’s changed since the day it opened. We opted for the traditional Budino di Riso – a sweet pastry with a creamy rice filling – and were very pleasantly surprised!
Okay friends, that rounds up everything I know about spending 24 Hours in San Gimignano. I hope you found it helpful and informative! Stay tuned for the next installment in this series – Siena – coming soon!