San Gimignano was built on a site inhabited by the Etruscans certainly, by the third century BC, as evidenced by the numerous archaeological discoveries in the surrounding territory. The hill was definitely chosen for strategic issues, being dominant upper Val d’Elsa.
According to tradition the name comes from the Holy Bishop of Modena, who would defend the village from the occupation of Attila.
About 1150, despite the opening of a new route of the Via Francigena, San Gimignano continued to be an emerging center, with a policy of territorial expansion and significant growth of the business. It was during this period that formed two “villages” outside the walls: one from St. Matteo to Pisa, and the other from St. Giovanni to Siena, both along a new “high road”, which were incorporated into the walls with the new route completed in 1214.
In 1199, at the height of its splendor economically, the country gained its independence municipal regard to the bishops of Volterra. There were some internal struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines (respectively led by stalwarts Ardinghelli and Salvucci), but from the thirteenth century, under the Ghibellines, was the period of greatest economic splendor, which was based on trade in precious local agricultural products, including the most sought after saffron was sold in Italy and abroad. The huge accumulated capital was invested in the thirteenth century in important public works, which gave the town the articulation of urban areas that can still be seen today.
In 1251 the walls englobed Montestaffoli, but a few years later, in 1255, the city was taken by the Guelphs of Florence ordered the destruction of the walls. Regained its independence in 1261 and returned to the Ghibelline supremacy after the battle, the people of San Gimignano rebuilt the walls also including the slope of the Tower. Since then, the shape of the city was divided into four quarters, each corresponding to a door: Piazza, Castello, St. Matteo and St. Giovanni.
The fourteenth century was a century of crisis that did not spare San Gimignano troubled by internal strife, it was heavily affected by the black plague and famine of 1348, which decimated the population. In 1351 the city exhausted voluntarily handed himself in Florence, giving up their autonomy and a political role in the arena of Tuscany.
At the end of the nineteenth century began to rediscover the uniqueness and beauty of the town, which was submitted in full to the monumental constraint in 1929. In 1990 it was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
During the World War II, the country was bombed by the Americans for ten days, in Torre Grossa was destroyed the bell (a new one was given after the war by the people of the Soviet Union).
San Gimignano is especially famous for its medieval towers that still stand out on its landscape, which have earned him the nickname of Manhattan of the Middle Ages. Between the 72 towers and tower houses that exist in the golden age of the city, he remained twenty-five in 1580 and today there are sixteen other severed visible in the city. The oldest tower is Torre Rognosa, which is 51 meters high, while the highest is Torre del Podestà, also known as Torre Grossa, high 54 meters. A regulation of 1255 forbade private citizens to build the tallest towers of the Torre Rognosa (which at the time was the highest), although the two most important families, Ardinghelli and Salvucci, built two towers slightly lower than nearly equal size, to demonstrate its power.