Friday, 27 January 2012 10:27 AM
If you want to visit a destination that combines sun, beautiful scenery and historic architecture, why not book holiday cottages in Italy near the town of San Gimignano? This UNESCO World Heritage site is just over 30 miles from Florence and ideal for a daytrip.
The small town stands within medieval walls and lies on the route of the ancient Via Francigena, the pilgrimage path that leads from Rome to Canterbury in the UK.
One of the things you might notice immediately as you enter the oldest district is the 14 impressive tower houses. These were built by the rich and elite families who controlled the town and at one time there were more than 70.
Many of the properties face out on to one of two main squares - Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza del Duomo. Piazza della Cisterna has a stone well at its centre.
It is believed the towers were influenced by the buildings of Pisa, Florence and Siena - all of which you could pay a visit to from your Tuscan villas with pools.
From almost anywhere you stand within the historic heart of San Gimignano you will be able to see one or more of the impressive towers, while the ancient church could also catch your attention.
The Collegiate Church in the Piazza del Duomo was consecrated in 1148 and is practically an art gallery. It is adorned with frescos painted centuries ago that detail events from the Bible.
Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's tragedy about two lovers from opposing warring families, could have been set in the town, which was once ruled over by the Ardinghelli and the Salvucci families.
These groups were often in conflict with each other and built their tower homes in order to symbolise their power. The tallest one standing today is Torre Grossa, which, at more than 50 m high, is the ideal place to go if you want to admire views across the town.
In addition to the fascinating architecture, there are numerous art galleries you may wish to visit during your trip.
The Museum of Sacred Art is a particular favourite and here you can see everything from funeral monuments to paintings by Bartolo di Fredi. You could also visit the town hall to see more beautiful frescos, or step inside to view the Florentine and Sienese works of art that hang on the walls.
Alternatively, you may wish to check out one of the wineries, where you can go on a guided tour of the cellars.
With so much to see and do, don't be surprised if you end up returning to San Gimignano before your villa holiday comes to an end.