San Gimignano is no doubt one of Italy’s prettiest historic villages. Overlooking the Val d’Elsa from a hilltop in the Tuscan countryside, it has largely maintained the same structure and aspect it had in the Middle Ages, with its many towers forming an unmistakable skyline.
San Gimignano became a free municipality in 1199, a time of great economic expansion. During the Middle Ages, San Gimignano was home to a rich urban aristocracy, which expressed its social and political power through the construction of what will become the symbol of the city : the towers. As many as 70 torri crowned the village in the 14th century; only 14 survive today.
One of those towers, dating to the 12th century, along with the 19th century building attached to it, has recently opened to the public. Located in the heart of San Gimignano, on via San Giovanni, Torre e Casa Campatelli was bequeathed to FAI, Fondo Ambiente Italiano, by Lydia Campatelli in 2005. Campatelli’s hope was to inspire visitors to learn and appreciate both the story of San Gimignano and the story of her family.
FAI, whose mission is to restore and preserve Italy’s cultural and artistic heritage, began working on the project in 2011, after raising 2 million euros. Torre e Casa Campatelli opened its doors on April 16, becoming the only private house in San Gimignano regularly open to the public.
The visit features a multimedia itinerary giving visitors the chance to learn in depth about San Gimignano and its history, the landscape that surrounds the town, the history of the building and of the Campatelli family. On the main floor, visitors are free to roam and linger on the furniture, paintings, souvenirs, photographs and letters, with no barriers separating them from the objects for a better understanding of the daily life of a middle-class family in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The ultimate goal for FAI is to encourage responsible, in-depth tourism as an alternative to the rushed version that too often prevail in little jewels like San Gimignano, which every year welcomes more than 3 million visitors, most of whom stay for only a few hours.
For more information, visit the FAI website.