Introduction to San Gimignano for cruises to the port of Livorno in 2023: how to get there on your own, things to do, dining, shopping, shore excursions and all you must know.
San Gimignano is one of the most popular and visited medieval towns in Tuscany but very few cruise travelers explore its stunning beauty and unusual highlights.
- How to get to San Gimignano
- The Towers of San Gimignano
- Top Things To Do
- Must See Landmarks
- Best Museums and Artworks
- Religious Sites
- Shore Excursions
- Must know: Tourist Information, Free Wi-Fi, Emergencies
Almost all shore excursions to San Gimignano offered by cruise lines and online tour operators also include visits to Siena or Chianti. Inevitably, these cruise excursions and tours do not allow much (or enough) time to discover many hidden secrets of this hidden treasure of Tuscany.
How to Get to San Gimignano from Livorno Cruise Port
The good news is that, unlike what you may read elsewhere, San Gimignano can easily be explored by car. It is easy to rent a car at the Livorno Cruise Port.
If you prefer to leave the driving and guiding to someone else, there are very good private local guides offering their services online. You will find more info about local guides and online tour operators at the bottom of this article.
The most affordable way to get to San Gimignano is by rail and bus. But it traveling to San Gimignano by rail takes over 2 1/2 hours to get there, with at least one train change and followed by a bus ride.
The return is equally hectic, but you will have almost 4 hours to explore the town. To learn how to travel to San Gimignano from Livorno cruise port, read ourcovering both car rental (including where to park in San Gimignano) and how to travel by rail.
San Gimignano's Towers
San Gimignano is known as the “city of the beautiful towers.” During Medieval times, the city’s prominent families built somewhere between 70 and 76 towers to act as command centers in their power struggles with each other.
After the plague swept through San Gimignano in 1348, 1464, and 1631, severely diminishing its population and destroying its economy, the city was never restored.
Thus, when tourists happened upon San Gimignano in the 19th century, they were rewarded with a medieval town filled with picturesquely crumbling towers. Today San Gimignano is the most popular hill town in Tuscany – as evidenced by the masses of tour buses and wealth of souvenir shops that can be found there.
San Gimignano - Torri Dei Salvucci and Torre Chigi
Photo: Markus Mark Public Domain
To experience the magic of the town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we advise the cruise ship passenger to wander through the alleyways, stare up at the towers reaching towards the sky, and enjoy piazzas and spectacular sights overlooking the Tuscan countryside.
Top Things To Do and See
As you will enter the city through the Porta San Giovanni, the cruise traveler will immediately start to experience the romantic medieval atmosphere of San Gimignano on Via San Giovanni (Saint John Street) lined with picturesque 13th and 14th-century buildings.
Within San Gimignano’s 13th-century walls, you will have quite a few things to do and see. The entire city is dotted with historical landmarks, some housing unusual museums. There are notable artworks in most religious sites.
The local cuisine is delicious. And you will have many places to choose between a light fare or lunch in memorable al fresco settings or panoramic views. Here is a list of the top things to do and see in San Gimignano:
- Walk the main streets: Via San Giovanni and Via San Matteo are delightful.
- Go up to the top of the Torre Grossa: amazing views.
- People watching in a square: Piazza Duomo and Piazza Cisterna
- Visit unsual museums: San Gimignano boast 8 interesting museums.
- Discover lavishly decorated churches : there are five chuches not to be missed.
- Savour local delicacies: Saffron, Olive Oil, Honey, Pecorino Cheese, Cured Meats.
- Peruse local shops: leather, glass, wine and gourmet delicacies are the best buys.
- Taste San Gimignano's unique wines: Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Vin Santo, Chianti Colli Senesi.
San Gimignano - Panorama
Photo: Tango7174 CC-By-SA
Must See Landmarks
San Gimignano is not a large town and it is almost impossible to get lost. Almost all its major landmarks can be visited on a walk along its two main streets - Via San Giovanni and Via San Matteo - leading to beautiful squares like Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) and Piazza della Cisterna (Cistern Square).
Piazza della Cisterna, San Gimignano
Photo by Deror Avi CC by SA 3.0
Along the way you will come across stunning sites like the Collegiata, the Palazzo Comunale, the Torre Grossa, the Salvucci Tower or the Palazzo del Podesta.
Here are the most interesting historical landmarks to see in San Gimignano:
- Gate of San Giovanni: favorite photography spot.
- Via San Giovanni: the city’s main thoroughfare.
- Via San Matteo: for those seeking out some off-the-beaten-track attractions.
- Piazza del Duomo: lined by the the most impressive building in San Gimigano.
- Palazzo Comunale aka Palazzo del Popolo: town hall, the seat of civic power since its founding in 1289.
- Palazzo del Podestà: built in 1239, it now houses an art museum.
- Torre Grossa: the tallest of the 7 towers lining the Piazza del Duomo.
- Piazza della Cisterna: San Gimignano’s historical main square.
- Rocca di Montestaffoli: stunning views of San Gimignano and the surrounding countryside
To lean more about these sites read our reviews and guide to the top landmarks in San Gimignano.
Best Museums and Artworks
For those on a shore excursion, it will be impossible to visit the museums of San Gimignano as you will not be spending enough time in town.
Museo Civico, San Gimignano
Photo: Public Domain
But if you are exploring San Gimignano on your own, there are a few museums that should not be missed. such as the the Museo d’Arte Sacra (Museum of Sacred Art), the Museo Civico (Town Hall), and the Museo Archeologico/Spezieria di Santa Fina (Archaeological Museum). Other minor museums can be of interest: San Gimignano 1300, the Wine Museum, the Museum of Torture.
- Museo Archeologico: Archaeological museum features artifacts from the Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval periods
- Spezieria di Santa Fina: a reconstructed 16th-century pharmacy.
- Museo Civico: Pinacoteca housed in the Palazzo del Popolo with works dating back to the 13th century.
- Museo d’Arte Sacra: Sacred Art Museum exhibits remarkable paintings, sculptures, and earthenware
- Ornithological Museum: one of a kind museum with a display of 371 stuffed birds.
- San Gimignano 1300: ceramic reconstruction of San Gimignano as it was in 1300 when all of its 72 towers were still standing
- Museo del Vino: housed on the Villa della Rocca Montestaffoli.
- Galleria Continua: modern and contemporary Art Gallery with exciting and unexpected contemporary artworks
- Museo della Tortura: the Torture Museum is as fascinating as it is gory.
To lean more about the museums above read our reviews and guide to the best museusm in San Gimignano.
Although some major religious artworks are on display on the Museum of Sacred Art, it is naturally inside the churches of San Gimignano that you will have opportunity to view the best art of San Gimignano.
Obsequies of St Fina by Ghirlandaio is a must-see in San Gimignano
Photo: Public Domain
The Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta, which once upon a time was the town's Cathedral (Duomo), is a must see, in particular, do not miss the Obsequies of St Fina, a magnificent fresco by Ghirlandaio. Although a bit off track, the Church of St Augustine also has major artworks not to be missed.
- Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta (Duomo - Cathedral): althought no longer considered a cathedral because San Gimignano does not have a bishop, the Collegiata is still the city’s main church
- Chiesa di San Francesco Church of St. Francis: beautiful white-travertine facade, sided by two brick houses, has horizontal stripes of dark serpentine that recalls the Pisan style.
- Chiesa di Sant’Agostino (St. Augustine's Church): although built in the 13th century, it is most notable for its 15th century frescoes.
- Chiesa di San Bartolo (Church of Santo Bartolo): built in 1173, it is a testament to the era when the Knights Templar traveled through Tuscany on their way to Jerusalem.
- Chiesa di San Jacopo (Church of St. Jacopo): the frescoes depicting the life of San Jacobo are worth a visit
To lean more about the churches above read ourin San Gimignano.
Where to Have a Quick Bite or Lunch
Regardless of whether you visit San Gimignano on a shore excursion or on your own, you should taste famous typical local delicacies.
Enoteca Gustavo, San Gimignano
Photo courtesy of Enoteca Gustavo
Even if you only have time for a quick bite do not leave town without tasting a glass of wine at Enoteca Gustavo. But if you have time do enjoy lunch here are our favorite restaurants in Samn Gimignano.
- Bel Soggiorno: on the main street of San Gimignano and has a wonderful panoramic terrace
- Dorando: small and cosy, consists of three private rooms with vaulted roofs of a 14th century building.
- Gustavo: this quaint wine bar right on Via San Matteo is perfect to sit back with a glass of San Gimignano’s famous Vernaccia and a cheese plate.
- La Mangiatoia: the atmosphere may be eclectic, but the food served here is always spot-on.
- Le Terrazze: al fresco Tuscan delicacies on the outdoor tables of the La Cisterna Hotel in the eponymous square.
- Le Vecchie Mura: serves Tuscan gourmet delicacies with absolutely amazing views.
- Osteria delle Catene: small restaurant that serves traditional dishes and an affordable selection of wines
To learn more about where to have lunch or a quick bite, read ourin San Gimignano.
Shopping in San Gimignano
Like everywhere in Italy, you may find some ubiquitous fashion brands in San Gimignano but the best buys are really the unique and local agricultural products of the region.
Photo Public Domain
The Vernaccia wine should be on the top of any shopping list. But do look out as well for Saffron, Olive Oil, Honey, Cheese and all sorts of Cured Meats and pasta. To learn more about shopping in San Gimignano read our.
Shore Excursions to San Gimignano
Like all cruise lines, independent online tour operators only offer shore excursions to San Gimignano combining a visit to this medieval jewel with other attractions like Siena.
But you may request a cruise excursion designed to spend as much time as possible in San Gimignano. Here are the independent online tour operators that offer tours to San Gimingano from the cruise port in Livorno:
- Shore Trips
- Shore Excursions Group
- Tours by Locals
- Venture Ashore
- Private Shore Trips
- Get Your Guide
Must know: tourist info, Wi-Fi, emergencies
If planning to visit the museums of San Gimignano, the cruise visitor should buy the combined ticket (priced at € 7.50). This ticket is valid for all major sites including includes the Civic Museum, the Museum of Sacred Art and the Archaeological Museum.
The editor strongly advises a visit to the Tourist Information Office on Piazza Duomo, 1 (right at the heart of town) - open every day between 10:00am and 1:00pm and between 3:00pm and 7:00pm. At the office the cruise traveler can find very good additional information including maps. We also suggest a visit to the official website of the San Gimignano Tourist Office before planning your tour.
Free Wi-Fi in San Gimignano
Since 2013, San Gimignano has joined the project "Free Italia Wi-Fi. This national Wi-Fi infrastructure offers free Wi-Fi connection in specific public areas of the city. As the project as evolved and has been gradually implemented, the best places to look for Wi-Fi connection are large squares like the Piazza Duomo or Piazza Cisterna.
Health matters, police and emergencies
There are two Police Stations within the walled in the city. Cruise visitors looking for a pharmacy will find a couple in the heart of the city and there is an hospital in Poggibonsi, relatively close to San Gimignano:
- Farmacia Borsini Dr. Antonello
Address: Via San Matteo, 17 Phone: (0577) 940397
- Farmacia Comunale di San Gimignano
Address: Piazza della Cisterna, 7 Phone: (0577) 990369
- Ospedale Campostaggia
Address: Loc. Campostaggia - 53036 Poggibonsi Phone: (0577) 9941
- State Police Station (Carabinieri):
Address: Piazzale MontemaggioPhone: (0577) 940313
- Town Police Station:
Address: Via Santo Stefano Phone: (0577) 990346