There are certain types of places for us in the World: places that fail our expectations, others that surpass them, some that disappoint us, and those that end up surprising us in the most unexpected way. For me, the latter has not happened many times, in fact, only a few places have really surprised me, one of them being San Gimignano.
The tiny, medieval, and Tuscan town of San Gimignano certainly surprised me in the most unexpected way. When I started to walk its narrow streets and pass through its passageways, I had no doubt that this place was different and special to me. Of course that there are several amazing Italian towns that look just like San Gimignano, but there is something about this city that made me fall in love with her at first sight.
So here is why I fell in love with San Gimignano, and why you probably will too:
The old look and feel
Walking through the narrow streets filled with old and original buildings, the feeling of stepping into history is inevitable. Is it just me or old cities are always special and beautiful? Well, for most Europeans stepping into old towns seem to be common, for a Brazilian not so much.
The Romanesque and Gothic buildings of San Gimignano are dated all the way back to the 15th and 16th centuries, and the historic center of the city is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And seriously, what’s not to love in this old town?
The narrow streets
If narrow streets fascinate you, here is your place. The entire city is formed with narrow streets, wherever you will go. Each corner will surprise you and invite you for a peek, and it will probably make you stay longer exploring the medieval town until you have walked them all.
What really caught my attention while wandering the little town, were the several passages found in almost every street. Apparently since the streets are so narrow, passages seemed like a good way of interconnecting them. Nowadays, it is a pretty way of exploring the city. I certainly enjoyed crisscrossing them and discovering something special and unique in each one.
The ice cream
For those who never heard of San Gimignano, you might as well know that the city claims to have the best gelatos in the World, there is even a Gelato University in town. The two most famous gelaterias are: Gelateria Dondoli and Gelateria del’ Olmo, both located at Piazza della Cisterna. I tried both, and I might have to agree that they are beyond delicious!
San Gimignano is located in a hilltop, which means that there are amazing views of the Tuscan region and its vineyards. Look for a nice spot, sit down and sip a Chianti wine watching the sunset. Simply amazing.
Some would say that San Gimignano is a tourist trap. I didn’t really see the city in that way. Of course that for being famous in the region and filled with tourists, the locals take advantage of selling anything related to Tuscany, from wine to pasta. However, what I actually saw was an authentic town, where the locals still hang around the main square, and the elderly enjoy the afternoon to gossip and observe the tourists passing by.
The old windows and doors, the cats, the smell of coffee and pasta, and even the clothes hanging from the windows make up for a very authentic Italian town. You just need to see beyond the tourists. And it is still possible to find en empty street every now and then.
Ahhh, the vibe of this town it’s not one I have found in many places. It made me feel different in a very good and special way; it made me feel like my own self – is that even possible? It gave me back a feeling I mostly had in New York, that one of being a part of the world – even if a tiny one. Don’t ask me why, because I have no idea how to explain it, especially because NYC and San Gimignano have nothing to do with each other.
The truth is, San Gimignano was simply an unexpected surprise, one that made me think of how many special places are still out there to be discovered by us. We might probably underestimate some, until they surprise us in the most simple and special way.