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San Gimignano, Italy

(one of the towers)

Also known as the Manhattan of Tuscany for its towers signifying the power of ancient families, San Gimignano is a satisfying day-trip from Sienna or Florence if a visitor finds the out-of-the-way gems, oddities, and mysteries found there.

In the case of San Gimignano, oddity is euphemism for the two torture museums. Enter the town by way of the southern gate (Porta San Giovanni) and walk up the hill, browsing the shops that interest you. Soon you will see the entrance to the first torture museum.

My travel buddy and I chose to bypass the torture tourist trap. Finding the duomo (in reality, a church after losing the bishop’s seat) occupied with a local wedding, we stopped to admire and purchase the work of a watercolor artist. The out-of-the-way gems are found by following the narrow streets past the duomo and away from the crowded piazza. Eventually, you will see the classic view of Tuscany so eagerly captured by photographers from around the globe. Take the perfect photo while absorbing the quiet before heading back to the towers and the main town.

(typical Tuscan photo)

On one of those back streets, at Vicolo dell'Oro, 2, is Restaurant Doranḍ (tel. and fax +39 0577 941862; e-mail: Restaurant Doranḍ follows the practices of the slow food movement, serving traditional ingredients in traditional dishes. Here was one of the best meals of the trip. Be sure to utilize the restroom facilities when patronizing a restaurant. On the day we visited, just one of the three public toilets in town was working. That line was never short.

One of the most intriguing mysteries was the forbidden door. This door seemed very old and truthfully, not unlike many doors in San Gimignano. The different is the sign is clearly posted in Italian forbidding anyone not authorized by the town to open it. What is behind that door?

(mystery door)

San Gimignano is not served by train. To get there, one must find one’s way to Poggibonsi either by train or bus and board the Sita company bus to San Gimignano. Conveniently, the bus stop is in front of the train station. Much to the frustration of some tourists, the direct bus from Sienna stopped twice along the way to accommodate local riders and then we were told to wait for another bus in Poggibonsi. Sigh.