The Towers

March 13, 2012 / Local Interest
San Gimignano, Tuscany
Long gone was the need for protection against the barbarian hordes. Yet at the height of the craze in the 13th century, there were 72 towers in San Gimignano. What gives?

Perhaps it was because the town was well located along the main trade routes, and due to its saffron trade became extremely rich. Perhaps because the town gave tax incentives to merchants to live within the walls. Perhaps it was because the town decreed that no building could be more than 17 meters wide by 24 deep, and so with space at a premium, the wealthy merchants naturally built up.

One can’t help but wonder if these however are simply explanations of instead of reasons for… merely effects of a deeper cause.

During a passeggiata (stroll) around town on any given festa morning in 13th century San Gimignano, might it not have gone something like this instead?

Buongiorno Signor Ardinghelli. Not sure you’ve noticed, but mine is bigger than yours. I hope it doesn’t cast too much a shadow.”

“No worries at all, Signor Salvucci. I am building a second one attached to the first, both taller and wider. I hope it won’t ruin your view.”

Images courtesy of


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

17 Responses to “The Towers”

  1. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    Envy has long been the bane of mankind. Yet who would have thought, ‘Tower Envy’ ?

  2. I love San Gimignano…one of my favorite places in Italy!! Thanks for the great article…

  3. Darlene Caltagirone Ojala

    This brought wondefrul memories! I was there for a day in 1975 as a college student while studying in Florence for six months through a program at the University of Florida, USA. It is like yesterday. :D

  4. Peggy Corrao

    You always “take us there” with good
    humor and a new slant on existing
    information! You are simply, the best!

  5. Michael Yaccino

    The name of this town is very difficult to say if you haven’t heard it a few times or even practiced it in front of your mirror. I have heard it butchered many times over the years.

    San Jimmy Conners was the best I have heard.

  6. Dude Brown

    I have spent a fair amount of time in Todi, Umbria, and some of my friends there have towers on their vills. My understanding is they were for protection. Can you add anything to that?

  7. My husband and I have been to Italy three times, and each time we do not miss going to San Gimignano. I just love the people there, they really are so kind to you even when I spoke some italian, that was probably not pronounced totally the correct way, but I did try.If and when we return to Italy we will not miss going back to visit San Gimignano again.
    Thanks so much for the article. It gave me such a great lift today.

  8. Dan Johnson

    Even on a rainy day in September several years ago, we found the pottery shops along the Via Giovanni to not only be a refuge from the showers, but a splash of color and friendlyness by the shopkeepers. “San Jimmy” will always hold fond memories for us.

  9. HA! This explanation is likely! For the same reasons men in the US buy Donzis…There is a village in Greece too, I think it’s near Kalamata, in the Pelopenese, more remote than San Gimignano. Same principal, lol

  10. Julianne

    My husband and I have been there several times and think it is so beautiful.

  11. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    A very special place for us GB – we honeymooned in S.G. in 1990. Thanks for the memories of a beautiful town and its remarkable architecture.

  12. LMAO. Italian Notebook is great. I look forward to every issue. Grazie Mille.


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