No matter how mach time you are spending in San Gimignano, you can’t leave it without trying at least two of its most famous and flavorful products: the first is Vernaccia, a prize-winning wine, and the second is saffron.
Vernaccia was first mentioned in 1276, when the Comune of San Gimignano put duty on this precious wine both for imports and exports. The origin of this vine is uncertain, but its cultivation quickly spread all over Tuscany, in Liguria, and in many other regions in Italy. The production in San Gimignano was renewed for its excellent quality. Medieval Vernaccia was probably a white, sweet and alcoholic wine, that was much appreciated by important personalities, such as Pope Martin IV, Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio and Lorenzo il Magnifico. After a long period of decay, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is today back to its excellent standards, thanks to the commitment of local vine-dressers which joined in a Syndicate obtaining the first DOC in Italy in 1966 and later DOCG in 1993. Today Vernaccia is one of the best white wines in Italy. Vernaccia has a typical straw-yellow colour. On the palate it is a dry, harmonious and sapid wine. It is the perfect foil with fish, white meats, vegetables, Tuscan ham, "ribollita" soup and many summer dishes. Vernaccia di San Gimignano Wine Experience – La Rocca (www.sangimignanomuseovernaccia.com) is the municipal
Centre for the documentation and tasting of Vernaccia di San Gimignano wine and local products. The centre was created by Consorzio della Denominazione San Gimignano, a consortium which brings together all winegrowers producing Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, and it aims to safeguard and enhance the value of the local wine production.
The second product that can’t be missed is rare, tasty and colorful! It’s saffron, the “Zafferano Purissimo di San Gimignano”. Since ancient times it’s been a prized and costly spice, and in the Middle Ages it became fundamental to the city’s economy because of its value and price: it may seem incredible but, in the year 1220, the town paid part of its debts in saffron! But what does saffron have that’s so special? It’s unequaled purity comes from the fact that it has forever been cultivated by absolutely natural methods, with not a trace of chemicals; moreover, the “stimmi”, the red heart of the intense violet saffron flower, are packaged whole to preserve their powerful aroma. Only the original product is allowed to carry the label “Zafferano Purissimo di San Gimignano”.
Also San Gimignano olive oil is a unique product you should taste. In the area of San Gimignano there are more than 800 hectares of olive trees shared among moraiolo, frantoiano and leccino varieties. The extra-virgin olive oil of San Gimignano has a gentle taste and a fruity aroma with notes of artichoke and almond with bitter and spicy notes. A fundamental product in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil plays an important role in both Tuscan and local cuisine. Among the local specialties to be mentioned "bruschetta", a slice of grilled Tuscan bread (with no salt), rubbed with garlic and brushed with olive oil.
Other typical local products are appetizing cured meats: hams, salami, wild boar sausages, finocchiona, processed according to the Tuscan tradition. Cinta senese (white-belted breed pig) is unique to this region and documented in many medieval frescoes and paintings (including in the Painting gallery of San Gimignano). Almost extinct, the population started to increase ten years ago and Cinta Senese is now raised in the area of Siena thanks to the commitment of some keen growers. White belted pigs grow in open fields and woodlands, their diet being natural, with a substantial intake of acorns. Their meat is particularly savoury, very good for roasting, excellent for cured meats: ham, salami, bacon, lard.
Would you like to taste excellent traditional Tuscan dishes accompanied by excellent local wines? Below a list of restaurants in San Gimignano what, in my opinion, are the best for quality and price.
- Ristorante Locanda la Mandragola
- Osteria San Giovanni
- Le Vecchie Mura
- Il Perucà
- Da Graziano
- La Griglia
- Osteria i 4 gatti
- Il Rigoletto
- La Bettola del Grillo 2
Finally, don't miss to taste the world-champion ice-cream from Gelateria Dondoli, in the central square of Piazza della Cisterna.