San Miniato

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San Miniato is an attractive hill town strategically located on the main connecting route between Europe and Rome (during the medieval period) and more recently at the intersection of the Florence-Pisa and the Lucca-Siena roads. It has a rich tradition of great wines and production of precious white truffles for which various festivals are held.

Description

San Miniato sits at an historically strategic location atop three small hills where it dominates the lower Arno valley between the valleys of Egola and Elsa. In medieval times, it was on the via Francigena, which was the main connecting route between northern Europe and Rome and now sits at the intersection of the Florence-Pisa and the Lucca-Siena roads. Archaeological evidence indicates it was 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 The first mention in historical documents is of a small village organized around a chapel dedicated to San Miniato built by the Lombards in 783.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 an Imperial Vicar ruled all of Tuscany.

The city is enclosed within a well-preserved medieval precinct. Main landmarks include:
  • The Tower of Frederick, built by Frederick II in the 13th century;
  • The Duomo (Cathedral), dedicated to both Sant'Assunta and Santo Genesio or Saint Genesius of Rome;
  • The Diocesan Museum, next to the cathedral. This museum-gallery contains works by Filippo Lippi, Empoli, Neri di Bicci, Fra Bartolomeo, Frederico Cardi (known as Cigoli) and Verrocchio.
  • Palazzo dei Vicari, built by Emperor Otto IV during the 12th century, incorporating one of the oldest known crenellated turrets;
  • Palazzo Comunale;
  • The church of San Francesco;
  • The church of San Domenico was originally constructed in the 14th century, but has an incomplete façade;
  • Convent of San Francesco
During the last three weeks of November, San Miniato hosts a festival devoted to the 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. In 1954 a record-breaking truffle found close to the nearby village of Balconevisi weighed in at 2,520 kilograms and was sent to the United States of America as a gift for President Dwight D Eisenhower.

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