Val d'Elsa


Guide to San Miniato in the province of Pisa

San Miniato is a town in the province of Pisa located in the heart of Tuscany near Empoli. Once known as San Miniato al Tedesco, the center is located in a historically important position halfway between Florence and Pisa, along the route of the Via Francigena. The city is one of the main poles of tourism in Val d’Elsa thanks to its valuable historical and artistic heritage and its great food and wine tradition. San Miniato is in fact a land of wine and white truffles, an internationally renowned delicacy.

Things to do in San Miniato: enjoy the Panoramic View
San Miniato

Things to do in San Miniato

The historic center of the town has maintained a characteristic sprawling layout, divided into several villages, which follows the trend of the hilly ridges. There are so many attractions to visit in San Miniato: churches, museums, monuments, historic buildings and the remains of the castle.

Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata

In the western part of the hamlet we find the former Monastery of Santa Chiara, with a museum managed by the Fondazione Conservatorio di Santa Chiara, the Church of the Santissima Annunziata and the elegant Palazzo Grifoni.

The Church of the Santissima Annunziata dates back to 1552 and is characterized by a simple brick facade that is hardly noticeable. The interior, renovated between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, houses some interesting works such as the fourteenth-century Annunciation which is located on the main altar.

Chiesa di San Domenico

The heart of the town consists of a series of irregularly shaped squares; the first of these is Piazza del Popolo. At the bottom of the square, along the main axis of the town, stands the unfinished facade of the Church of San Domenico (formerly the Church of Santi Jacopo and Lucia). The interior, which unlike the facade is richly decorated, preserves various paintings and sculptures of exquisite workmanship such as the Madonna and Child, saints and patrons attributed to the Master of San Miniato and the Annunciation by Giovanni della Robbia.

Next to the church is the entrance to the so-called Via Angelica, a passage that allows you to reach three rooms full of frescoes dated between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries.

Things to do in San Miniato: visit the Via Angelica - Oratory of Sant'Urbano
Via Angelica – Oratorio di sant’Urbano (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

 

Seminary

Continuing on via Augusto Conti you reach Palazzo Roffia, seat of the Arciconfraternita di Misericordia and its museum (free but open by appointment). A little further on, there is Piazza della Repubblica (formerly Piazza del Seminario.) The square is characterized by the presence of the spectacular Seminary which occupies almost three sides out of four. Built starting in 1650, the seminary building has a beautiful frescoed facade with recurring motifs and a series of biblical mottos.

Seminar of San miniato
Seminary of San miniato

 

Cathedral of San Miniato

Three stairways connect Piazza della Repubblica to the overhanging Piazza del Duomo. Excellent panoramic point on the Arno valley, the square is really very pleasant with its trees that offer a bit of shade and the pachine on which to rest for a while. Here we find the Cathedral of San Mianiato and the Diocesan Museum.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and San Genesio dates back to the 12th century. The exterior, all in brick, is characterized by a salient facade with three portals and as many rose windows to which a fourth buffered one is added. On the facade you can appreciate a singular composed of 26 decorated ceramics. The interior, with three naves, has a Neo-Renaissance style (due to nineteenth-century restorations) and Baroque. As in any self-respecting cathedral, there is no shortage of works to admire. Among these are the Deposition by Francesco d’Agnolo, the Adoration of the Shepherds by Aurelio Lomi, the Resurrection of Lazzaro by Cosimo Gamberucci and the Baptism of Christ by Ottavio Vannini.

At the end of the structure rises a mighty bell tower called Torre di Matilde, which was once part of the defensive systems of the city. Together with that of Frederick II, the Tower of Matilde offers a complete view of the village and the surrounding area.

Duomo of San Miniato and Torre di Matilde
Duomo of San Miniato and Torre di Matilde

Museo diocesano di Arte Sacra

The Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art of San Miniato is located inside the ancient screstia which is right next to the Duomo. Inaugurated in 1966, the museum exhibits paintings, sculptures and other works from the cathedral and churches of the dioceses of San Miniato; to these works is added the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Sanminiatelli Zabarella. Together with the museum it is also possible to visit the Tower of Matilda with a single ticket.

For all information on visiting hours and tickets I leave you the link to the website of the diocese of San Miniato.

Santuario del Crocifisso

The Sanctuary of the Crucifix is located behind the Cathedral a short distance from the square. It is a Greek cross church surmounted by a dome on a drum. Built between 1705 and 1708, to guard and venerate the image of the miraculous Crucifix of Castelvecchio, the sanctuary has a very sober and linear exterior decoration which is contrasted by a truly rich and sumptuous interior, in pure Baroque style.

What to see in San Miniato - Interior of the Santuario del Crocifisso
Interior of the Santuario del Crocifisso (Photo by Vignaccia76 / CC BY)

Rocca di Federico II

From Piazza del Duomo, you can quickly reach the top of the hill, on which the castle built by Emperor Frederick II once stood. The fortress was destroyed during the Second World War which unfortunately in San Miniato is remembered for the “massacre of the Duomo”, in which 52 people lost their lives due to an artillery shot fired by the Americans. In addition to the loss of human life, there was also extensive damage to some medieval structures. Today of the fortress of Frederick II only the tower remains which was reconstructed in a very accurate way in 1958. The climb to the top of the tower guarantees an exceptional panoramic view that sweeps 360° from the Valdarno, the Volterra hills, the Apennines and up to the sea. .

On the Valdarno Musei website, you will find updated information on visiting hours.

What to see in San Miniato Castle of Frederick II- Tower of Friedrick II
Tower of Frederick II (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

 

Convento di San Francesco

Going down from the Sanctuary of the Crucifix on the main road, you quickly reach the town hall. The Loretino oratory was built inside the town hall towards the end of the 13th century, which originally served as the private chapel of the rulers. From there, you can continue the visit along the relief of the fortress until you reach the oratory of the Trinity (16th century) and then the church of San Francesco.

The Convent of San Francesco is a large brick complex built starting from 1276. The interior, consisting of a single wide nave, preserves a series of altars with valuable painter works such as the Annunciation and saints attributed to Francesco Curradi. Other works include a wooden crucifix from the 16th century, the Assumption of the Virgin attributed to Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio and the Archangel Michael by Bartolomeo Sprangher.

Accademia degli Euteleti

The Accademia degli Euteleti is inside the Palazzo Migliorati in the eastern part of San Miniato. This academy, founded in the first half of the 17th century with the name of Accademia degli Affidati, makes research and promotion in the field of Sciences and arts.

For more informations about the museums please consult the web site of the municipality and the web site of the Fondazione San Miniato Promozione. Particularly, if you contact the Tourist Office and the Sistema Museale di San Miniato you can also book a guided tour to the archaeological area di San Genesio located a short distance from the town along the via Francigena.

What to visit around San Miniato

San Miniato is a short distance from Empoli, Cerreto Guidi and Vinci. Going into the Val d’Elsa you will find Castelfiorentino, Certaldo, San Gimignano, Poggibonsi and other villages in the area: all worthy of a visit!

How to get to San Miniato

San Miniato in the center of Tuscany, about 40 kilometers away from Florence and 45 from Pisa. The town is easily reachable from the main cities of Tuscany both by car and by public transport.

By car: If you come from the A1 motorway you have to exit at the Firenze Signa tollbooth and take the highway Florence-Pisa-Livorno to the San Miniato exit. From the A12 motorway, if you come from the north you have to exit at Pisa centro while if you come from the south at Collesalvetti, then continue on the Florence-Pisa-Livorno to your destination.

By train: San Miniato has a railway station (San Miniato Fucecchio) which is located in the new part of the city (San Miniato Basso). The station is regularly served by regional trains that make the Florence-Pisa route. Right in front of the station is the bus stop that reaches the historic center of San Miniato.

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