The late-13th century home of the city government, Palazzo del Commune, is topped with San Gimignano’s tallest tower, the aptly named Torre Grossa (Big Tower), finished in 1311. Your reward for a climb to the top will be views of the cityscape and rolling countryside of the Val d’Elsa, but save your 5€ and enjoy the same outlook for free by making the 5-minute climb uphill from Piazza del Duomo to the ruined Rocca.
Inside the Camera del Podestà (Room of the Mayor) are San Gimignano’s most famous frescoes, Memmo di Filippuccio’s “Scenes of Married Life.” In one scene, a couple takes a bath together, and in the other, the scantily-clad fellow climbs into bed beside his naked wife. The great treasure in the adjoining painting gallery is the “Coppo di Marcovaldo Crucifix,” an astonishingly touching work in which Christ appears vulnerably human and is surrounded by six intricate little scenes of the Crucifixion. Coppo, a Florentine soldier, was captured by the Sienese, who realized what a treasure they had in the artist and persuaded him to do this and other masterpieces that show a slight transition away from flat Byzantine style to more varied texture and three-dimensionality.
St. Fina’s head (see the Collegiata, above) is in a room to the right, in the “Tabernacle of Santa Fina” (1402), painted with scenes of four of the teenager saint’s miracles. Taddeo di Bartolo, who did the terrifying Last Judgment in the Collegiata, painted the “Life of St. Gimignano (or Geminianus)” for the room. The saint was a 5th-century bishop of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region who allegedly saved his flock by attack from Attila the Hun by conjuring up a dense fog. Hearing the news, the little town then known as Silvia changed its name to San Gimignano to buy a bit of insurance. Gimignano cradles his namesake in his lap, towers and all, figuratively offering the protection he was so often called upon to provide.