San Gimignano is one of the best-loved towns in Tuscany, perfect for a day trip from Siena or Florence or, better yet, for a leisurely weekend enjoying good art and good food. Here are some top picks for where to eat in the turreted town.
PASTRIES / Pasticceria Il Criollo
Visit Pasticceria Il Criollo on via dei Fossi, just outside the historical center of San Gimignano, to start your day off like most Italians do: enjoying un caffè and un cornetto. But that’s not all, at this locals’ favorite stop you’ll also find a wide selection of miniature baked goods, such as lemon and pistachio tartlets, cheesecake, babà al rhum with Chantilly cream, gluten-free doughnuts, gluten-free tiramisu, and gluten-free cantucci, also known as biscotti.
WINE / Gustavo Mescita Vini
You’ll find this cute little wine bar on via San Matteo, San Gimignano’s main road that connects Porta San Matteo to Porta San Giovanni. It’s owned by Maristella Becucci, who took over the family business from her father Gustavo and who runs it with her son. Ask for a seat on one of their street-front pedane, raised platforms, for some fabulous people-watching along with a glass of wine and a lovely selection of hot crostoni: toasted bread topped with all sorts of deliciousness, such as chopped tomatoes with basil (bruschetta al pomodoro) or sausage and decadent and melty pecorino cheese. Gluten-free bread is also available.
I recommend sitting outside to take in the piazza life while you enjoy your personal meat fest with a glass of vino rosso.
MEAT / I Piaceri della Carne
Alessio Renieri’s I Piaceri della Carne is a small butcher shop right across from the Church of Sant’Agostino. This is the place to stop at if you’re a raw meat enthusiast: choose from their selection of knife-cut tartares and thinly sliced beef eye round carpacci or order their Gran Crudo tray with the best of both.
DINE / La Mandragola
Via Diacceto is a quiet side street just off San Gimignano’s main street. This is where you’ll find La Mandragola, an excellent restaurant built inside someone’s old home where you can treat yourself to a creative Tuscan meal. La Mandragola isn’t afraid to dare, adding sweet notes to dishes that conventionally wouldn’t include them, such as salted butter gelato or caramel onion pie. The menu changes with the season, but I recommend the rich vin santo duck pate with toasted brioche; gnudi, ricotta and spinach balls, with pumpkin cream; their thick and deliciously chewy pici pasta with broccoli; and crispy suckling pig. If it’s a nice day, make sure to book a table outside, so you can take in the view of San Gimignano’s world-famous towers.
GELATO / Gelateria Dondoli
No visit to San Gimignano is complete without a gelato at one of the most famous gelaterie in the world, located on the central and usually very busy piazza della Cisterna. You’ll recognize it by the long line out the door, but don’t worry, the staff behind the counter work quickly and you’ll be out the door in no time. Stop at Gelateria Dondoli for unusual flavors like Vernaccia wine sorbet or one of their trademark specialties, such as Crema di Santa Fina, an eggy gelato with pine nuts and saffron, or Champelmo, with grapefruit and sparkling wine. Feel free to ask the gelatieri for recommended combinations.
You’ll eat more gelato than you can dream of, but you’ll burn off the calories in laughter thanks to Dondoli’s great sense of humor.
If you prefer a more hands-on approach to your gelato, I recommend signing up for a Gelato Class with the Maestro himself: Sergio Dondoli, a man larger than life, with a marvelous set of whiskers and a peculiar attention to detail, as you’ll notice by his perfectly color-coordinated apron, hat and Havaianas glasses in the very same shade of purple as his gelato cups. The class lasts about two hours, during which you’ll learn how to make gelato with fresh organic ingredients, all about its history and how it differs from ice cream. You’ll eat more gelato than you can dream of, but you’ll burn off the calories in laughter thanks to Dondoli’s great sense of humor.
Market / Mercatale della Valdelsa
Every second Sunday of the month you’ll find Mercatale della Valdelsa, a little food market set up in an alcove just off piazza Duomo, where you can purchase specialty foods directly from local producers: bakers, cheesemakers, farmers, truffle hunters and more.