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Exploring the towers of power

  • Exploring the towers of power

    The tower-studded skyline is one of the most spectacular sights in Tuscany. In its heyday, the city had a total of 72 towers, only 14 of which remain. Tower-houses were castle-residences serving as both warehouses and fortresses. These were self-sufficient enclaves symbolising the wealth of the feudal nobles or prosperous merchants and their scorn for civil authority. The arrival of the Black Death in 1348 put an end to these towers of power. It also put an end to prosperity in San Gimig¬nano until the 20th century. The city faded, compounded by a lack of political autonomy as it fell under Florentine control. In short, San Gimignano languished as an economic backwater, by¬passed by the Renaissance – for which we are eternally grateful.

    The remaining towers are concentrated around the Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Cisterna, which is teeming with tourists all year round. The tall defensive towers dominate the two main squares at the highest point of the town and doubled as status symbols, to flaunt the owners’ wealth and social standing. An additional theory holds that the towers were also linked to the textile trade, which helped make San Gimignano rich. As there was little room at ground level, some towers may have been built to house valuable dyed fabrics. However, the consensus is that these imperious towers began as defensive works but swiftly became status symbols, much like a Manhattanite skyscraper today.

    Address: Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Cisterna
    San Gimignano
    Tel: 0577 940008
    Web: www.visitsangimignano.com

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