The name of the city is pronounced "san gee mee gnan no"
San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls form "an unforgettable skyline".
In the 3rd century BC a small Etruscan village stood on the site of San Gimignano. Originally a castle named Silvia, the name was changed to San Gimignano in 450 AD after Bishop Geminianus, the Saint of Modena, intervened to spare the castle from destruction by the followers of Attila the Hun. As a result, a church was dedicated to the saint, and in the 6th and 7th centuries a walled village grew up around it, subsequently called the "Castle of San Gimignano" or Castle of the Forest because of the extensive woodland surrounding it. From 929 the town was ruled by the bishops of Volterra.
In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance era, it was a stopping point for Catholic pilgrims on their way to Rome and the Vatican, as it sits on the medieval Via Francigena. The city's development was also improved by the trade of agricultural products from the fertile neighbouring hills, in particular saffron, used in both cooking and dyeing cloth and Vernaccia wine, said to inspire popes and poets.
The city flourished until 1348, when it was struck by the Black Death that affected all of Europe, and about half the townsfolk died. The town submitted to the rule of Florence. Initially, some Gothic palazzi were built in the Florentine style, and many of the towers were reduced to the height of the houses. There was little subsequent development, and San Gimignano remained preserved in its medieval state until the 19th century, when its status as a touristic and artistic resort began to be recognised.
Currently, San Gimignano claims to have the best gelateria in all of Italy or possible Europe: Gelateria Dondoli. And, yes, the line of people waiting for gelato was proof of its reputation... though we didn't get any gelato because we didn't want to wait in line.
Read more about San Gimignano (link opens in a new window).