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Duomo in the Piazza del Duomo San Miniato

Panorama of San Miniato

View from a window, San Miniato

Welcome to San Miniato
from Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population:  26,353 (2001)
Official website:
San Miniato
Wikipedia: San Miniato

San Miniato is a little jewel of a city  that sits at an historically strategic location atop three small hills where it dominates the lower Arno valley between the valleys of Egola and Elsa.  It used to carry the additional sobriquet "al Tedesco" ("of the Germans") to distinguish it from San Miniato al Monte, just above the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, which is just a few kilometers to the north east.

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Beautiful "Medici" Villa
Fattoria di Stibbio

In medieval times, San Miniato was on the main road from France, the via Francigena, which was the main connecting route between northern Europe and Rome.  It also sits at the intersection of the Florence-Pisa road and the Lucca-Sienna road.  So, over the centuries San Miniato was exposed to a constant flow of friendly and hostile armies, traders in all manner of goods and services, and other travelers from near and far.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the site of the city and surrounding area has been settled since at least the paleolithic era.  It would have been well-known to the Etruscans,  and certainly to the Romans, for whom it was a military post called "Quarto".

The first mention in historical documents is of a small village organized around a chapel dedicated to San Miniato built by the Longobards in 783.  By the end of the 10th century San Miniato boasted a sizeable population enclosed behind a moat and protected by a castle built by Otto I, from which his and his successors Imperial Vicars ruled all of Tuscany.

The first walls, with defensive towers, were thrown up in the 12th century during the time that Italy was dominated by Frederick I, known as Barbarossa.  Under his successor, Fredrick II, the town was further fortified with expanded walls and other defensive works, including the Rocca and its tower.  (The Rocca has long since disappeared, but the tower, which was blown up by the Nazis during the second world war has been totally rebuilt and restored.)

During the latter years of the 13th century and the entire 14th century, San Miniato was drawn into the ongoing conflict between the Ghibelline (pro Imperial) and Guelph (pro Papal) forces.  Initially Ghibelline, it had become a Guelph city by 1291, allied with Florence and, in 1307, fought with them and other members of the Guelph league against Ghibelline Arezzo.

By 1347 San Miniato was under Florentine control, where it remained, but for a brief period from 1367-1370 when, instigated by Pisa, it rebelled against Florence, and for another brief period between 1777 and 1779 during the Napoleonic conquest.  It was still part of the Grand Duchy of Florence when the Duchy was absorbed into the modern state of Italy in 1860.

Visiting the city today, one finds one self within a pleasant, well-preserved medieval precinct, one of the best in Tuscany.  Apart from the wonderful, 360 degree views, where Valdarno is  displayed in all its multifarious glory,   among the many notable man-made sites to see are:

The "Il Frederico" Tower: built by Frederick II in the 13th century on the summit of the hill at an altitude of 192 meters, overlooking the entire Valdarno.  It was destroyed by the Nazis to prevent the Allies from using it as a gun sighting tower, but was reconstructed in 1958.

The Cathedral or Duomo: dedicated to both Sant'Assunta and Santo Genesio, was originally a Romanesque building, but it has been remodelled several times and exhibits Gothic and some Renaissance elements.  The facade incorporates a number of majolica bowls.  It is built on the Latin cross plan and has a central nave with two side aisles.  The cathedral's fortified capanile - or bell tower - is called the Matilde Tower and features a strange, asymmetrical clock.

Diocesan Museum - next to the cathedral, this museum and gallery  contains works by Filippo Lippi, Empoli, Neri di Bicci, Fra Barlomeo, Frederico Cardi (known as Ćgoli) and Verrocchio.

Palazzo dei Vicari: built by Ottone I during the XII century, the palazzo incorporates one of the oldest known crenellated turrets. The interior has a number of interesting frescoes.  Alas, it is now a hotel.

Palazzo Comunale:    This 14th century building is still San Miniato's  City Hall.  It's great hall was decorated by Cenno di Francesco Cenni. It also features a small oratory, containing a 16th century altarpiece.

Chiesa San Francesco:   Originally built in the early 13th century with a Romanesque facade, its interior features Gothic style chapels and frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Chiesa San Domenico: was originally constructed in the 14th century, but has an incomplete facade.  It's interior contains terra cotta works by Luca della Robbia and a burial monument sculpted by Rosellino.

Convent of San Francesco: Purportedly founded by Saint Francis of Assisi himself in 1211 when he visited the city, the Convent stands behind the city higher up on the hill.

Other buildings and monuments worth seeing include the Bishop's Sanctuary, with a Baroque facade in the design of an amphitheater, designed by Cagoli and the Sanctuary of the Crucifix, recently restored, the desanctified Chiesa di San Martino, which has done duty as a convent, and then a prison, but which will now be used for conventions.  There are also a number of Renaissance palazzi, built by such aristocratic families as the Roffia, Grifoni, Formichini, and the Bonapartes, ancestors of Napoleon.

by Vian Andrews, January 2nd, 2006

This article was posted on Wikipedia as the starting article for San Miniato, on January 2nd, 2006.

Region of Tuscany

Alt: 192 meters


By car: West south west of Florence approx. 41 km. on the SP40.  West of Empoli on the SP40 approx. 10.5 km.  South of Pistoia about  72 km on the SP123 (or take the A1 to Florence, then the SP40 west to San Miniato.  East of Livorno on the SP40 approx. 55 km.



Flower pots, San Miniato


An Etruscan necropolis has been found in nearby Fontevivo and various bronze and marble works have been unearthed in the nearby Montappio and Montenecalenne.
St. Miniato, who gives his name to San Miniato (and to the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte in Florence).  He was thought to be an Armenian Prince, who is the mid 3rd century AD made a pilgrimage to Rome and became a Christian proselytizer.  He arrived in Florence, in about 250 AD and took up residence as a hermit in the Grotto alle Croci above the city.  Legend has it that he was decapitated during the persecutions of Emperor Decius, but not content to die, he picked up his head tucked it under his arm and returned to his cave, which is now  the oratory of the Basilica.
Important people born in San Miniato include Francesco I Sforza (1401-1466), the artist Ludovico Cardi called Il Cigoli (1559-1613), the architect Antonio Piccolini (1772-1850) and the philosopher Augusto Conti (1822-1905).  Ancestors of Napoleon Bonaparte, of Corsica, were also born in San Miniato.
White Truffles!  During the last 3 weeks of November, San Miniato hosts a festival devoted to the gastronomically precious white truffle which is harvested in the area around the city.  The white truffle is more highly valued than the black truffles found in Umbria and the Marche, and commands very high prices, reflected in the cost of restaurant dishes that incorporate truffles.

White truffles of San Miniato

A huge record-breaking truffle found near the village of nearby  Balconevisi in 1954 weighed in at 2,520 kilos (5556 pounds).