Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 1, 2012

No Tea with Mussolini in San Gimignano


The beautiful Tuscan town of San Gimignano has featured in several movies as well as Tea with Mussolini for good reason. It is hard to imagine a more picturesque town, with its 14 towers dominating the hilltop.

It was an Etruscan village and was named San Gimignano after the Bishop of Modena, who is said to have saved the town from Attila the Hun. At one time there were 72 towers, built around the 13th century. With so many wars going on between neighbouring towns at the time, it is a wonder that any still exist at all.

It is impossibly busy with tourists, but if you stay overnight outside the busy season you will have the town to yourself after the tourist buses have left. We arrived in the late afternoon to find swarms of Italian school students filling the streets, but they eventually left and we were free to wander almost alone.

As luck would have it I booked the Hotel Cisterna, which turned out to be right in the centre of town in a 14th century building.


The Hotel Cisterna is behind the cisterna (well) in the Piazza Cisterna. It is a gorgeous square.



The town has dozens of ceramic shops. I defy you to leave without at least one beautiful piece.






San Gimignano is a beautiful town to wander in, with a delight at every turn.










The cathedral has the most amazing fresoes, but I can’t show you as no photos were allowed, and there were evil guards to make sure.

In the piazza in front of the church is the gathering place for the local gentlemen. No doubt they are still there solving the problems of the world.


Their view is pretty good. I would sit there for hours too, if I could.




The piazzas look especially lovely in the evening.




We got up early in the morning to walk around the edge of the town. It was early spring on a damp, cool morning and it was beautiful.
















San Gimignano deserves to be a popular place to visit. Go in the off season if you can and avoid the town on Thursday when a huge market fills the main piazza and ruins the ambience of the centre.


  1. Wow…bella!

    • San Gimignano is gorgeous, especially at night when it is almost empty.

  2. unbelievable!! when I was there in February it was so quiet… was gorgeous and then i saw your photos above with all the people…still gorgeous but have to say much better in winter…you forget how busy the summer can be!!

    • I am usually in Italy in the off season. I love winter when you have these beautiful places to yourself.

  3. Just BEAUTIFUL!! Your ‘fig’ shot is exquisite; it’s dewiness and perfectness wonderful. If I could frame it; I would. I was transported; the colour of the buildings, all blending into each other, defined only by their breathtaking lines….hmmmm, sigh!

    • San Gimignano is lovely. We try take all our visitors there.

  4. San Gimignano really is the most beautiful town. It’s been a while since I’ve been there but your photos make we want to return….after the tour buses leave!! There is a lot to be said for travelling off season!

  5. This was one of my favorite stops in Tuscany. I loved the churches and there was this amazing shop to get gelato right off the main piazza. Our pictures look very similar! But we did not stay right in the town–thanks for the hotel info! And I love the pictures if the men “solving problems”. I should have left with some of those ceramics….

  6. I agree San Gimignano is a delight at every turn. It’s a few years since I was last there and it was just a day trip – I think staying overnight is a good tip.

    • It is great to see the town without swarms of tourists.

  7. Lovely presentation! I ll add yet another exciting destination to my never ending list.

    • It would not be possible to see Italy’s delights in one lifetime.

  8. Thank you, once again, Debra, for your exquisite photos and wonderful memories. I LOVE San Gimignano! We haven’t stayed there overnight; perhaps we should do that this year.I second Damommachef; that gelato is delicious! There is also a place that sells great, whopping slices of pizza, We have some lovely framed black and white photos of San Gimignano, which we bought in a shop on the piazza. We’ve also bought pottery there; those pottery shops are unbelievably exquisite! Don’t you love the pottery table and chair sets!?!
    29 days until we leave for Italy; I can’t wait!

    • It is lovely to wander at sunset when the crowds have gone and find hidden corners.

  9. Lovely pictures, Debra and thank you for the recommendation to stay over for a night and enjoy the town when it is more peaceful.

    • It really does look especially beautiful at night.

  10. Beautiful Italy and amazing photographs… Thank you dear Debra, love, nia

    • There are so many of these gorgeous hilltop towns in Italy.

  11. Timing is everything Debra. I thoroughly agree. Great tip to arrive late and stay over. Your photos, as always, are gorgeous. Hill towns at night time are magic.

    • I love to have these places to myself.

  12. thanks for the memories, John and I stayed in the town for a week a few years ago, it all comes back to me now with your lovely photos. Night time in the piazza with fountain are beautiful. See you soon for coffee in Brisbane.

    • I think it is gorgeous at night and in the early morning before everyone is awake.

  13. Thanks for the memories Deb. Love it love it

    • San Gimignano is a special place.

  14. wow, debra, i loved this post.. such a stunning place, how wonderful that it still stands .. c

    • It is amazing that these towns are still standing and that we are able to wander through them.

  15. […] […]

  16. Beautiful pictures. I’m going to Italy for the first time in September and I can’t wait 🙂

    • If you let me know where you are going I might be able to offer some tips.

      • Rome. Only four days. Got an apartment near the Colliseum. I can’t wait!

      • Lovely Rome. Have a look in the Rome category for some tips. Have a great time.

  17. Outstanding pics. I haven’t been there, but thanks for the reminder that I need to visit! Thanks Debra!

    • Try to go in the off season, but that really goes for all of Italy.

  18. Thanks Debra for reporting about this wonderful Tuscany place!

    • It is a very beautiful place to visit.

  19. San Gimignano is one of our favourite Tuscan towns. A fairytale atmosphere and history everywhere. Last time we went to visit its Museum of Torture, located in a very old and suitable building and with a remarkable collection of very frightening artifacts. Not my cup of tea, but we were doing some research on behalf of one of our daughters, who is a writer. In any case, most interesting and they chose the right place and building that suit this type of museum.
    Great photos, Debra, but you keep on spoiling us.

    • We saw the museum, but we didn’t go in….perhaps another time.

  20. really beautiful debra.

    • It is a gorgeous town.

  21. Love, love love this post.

  22. Brings back memories! Beautiful place!

    • We have been several times, but the overnight stay was the best.

  23. Our one and only visit to San Gimignano was on a busy market day. The place was extremely, unpleasantly crowded, so it’s nice to see it looking quiet and peaceful in your photos, Debra.

    • The first time we went we absolutely loved San Gimignano,, the second it was crowded and as you say, unpleasant, but we have persisted and find it beautiful, especially when the crowds have left.

  24. Hi Deb, Lizzie and I managed to visit in January and we just loved it. Very peaceful and the locals were very friendly. The memories flood back looking at your photos

    • I’m glad you had a good time.

  25. we wanted to visit San Gimignano when we were in Tuscany but didn’t have enoug htime. maybe next time. hopefully.

  26. Debra,
    Enjoyed your pictures so much. We spent a night there in 2001 during our honeymoon in Italy. Very charming! Your blog brought back some great memories.
    Marilyn and Jack

    • It is very easy to see why San Gimignano is popular with tourists….it is gorgeous.

  27. […] No Tea with Mussolini in San Gimignano ( […]

  28. […] Forte dei Marmi, San Gimignano…… […]

  29. […] San Gimignano is the city of towers. It is a little spoiled by the sheer number of tourists who go there. Most of the tourists leave at about 5.00pm, so staying overnight is a good option. In the evening you get to have the town to yourself and can wander peacefully through this beautiful place. […]

  30. Staying there makes total sense as I haven’t seen it without crowd. Omg.. The pictures of the piazza without the crowd is fab!

    • We were put off going for a while because of the crowds, but staying overnight is the way to go.

      • I agree

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