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San Gimignano

San Gimignano

San Gimignano is an exceptional testimony to the civilization of the Middle Ages, in a small area there are all the structures typical of urban life: squares and streets, houses and palaces, wells and fountains. San Gimignano is located in the Elsa Valley, 56 km south of Florence. Its walls and fortified houses form an unforgettable skyline, in the heart of the Etruscan landscape. San Gimignano was one of the meeting point of the Via Francigena for pilgrims on their way to and from Rome. Originally under the jurisdiction of the bishops of Volterra, it became independent in 1199 when it acquired its first mayor. The free town, known as San Gimignano of the beautifull towers, has entered in a long period of prosperity that lasted until 1353, when it fell under the dominion of Florence. In 1262 was built a wall that measures 2,177 metres, and then be reinforced with five cylindrical towers on the city walls. As symbols of their wealth and power of rich families, were built 72 tower-houses. Of these, 14 have survived, including the house Cugnanesi on the former Via Francigena (Via San Giovanni); Home Pesciolini in Via San Matteo, and in the oldest district of the city, the House Palace Franzesi-Ceccarelli in Via del Castello. The city developed around two main squares, Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza del Duomo. The triangular Piazza della Cisterna is ornamented with a lovely well that stands in the center. The square is surrounded by tower houses: the twin Towers of Ardinghellis to the west, the Benuccis Tower, the House Rodolfi and the Palazzo Razzi to the south, and the Cortesi Palace to the north. The Piazza del Duomo has a complex scheme that took shape in the late 13th century. Most public and private monuments are found here. To the west, there is the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta. To the east is the former Mayor Palace (1239; the Tower of Rognosa and Torre Chigi are also on this side). The People’s Palace is located on the south with the Great Tower, which rises to 54 meters. The historic center of San Gimignano contains a series of masterpieces of Italian art of the 14th and the 15th century, including: in the cathedral, the fresco of Judgment, Heaven and Hell by Taddeo di Bartolo (1393), the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian by Benozzo Gozzoli, and above all the magnificent frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio – the cycle of Santa Fina. Other works of the same outstanding beauty are the huge frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli depicting St Sebastian and St. Augustine.

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