Some background: Our stay at San Gimignano was part of a 3-week tour of Italy (my wife and two adult children). We are all fascinated by Italian history, and this trip was the fulfillment of a long-planned tour of Italy.
Despite having travelled many times throughout Italy, this was my first time booking through an Italian agency via the internet. My initial query was through Halldis (www.halldis.com) which was referred to their affiliate Windows on Italy (www.windowsonitaly.com). The communication with both agencies was excellent and any questions were quickly answered by very professional staff; the whole booking process was quick and remarkably easy, with immediate confirmation e-mails of any online payments made. I was very happy to find that there were absolutely no 'rude' surprises of any kind -- everything was at least as good or much better than advertised and the cost exactly as quoted without any 'secret' clauses or unexpected add-ons.
Finding San Gimignano by car was no problem; despite arriving over an hour later than we had agreed to, we were warmly met by Ms Giulia Calvani, the Torre Salvucci Maggiore representative (managers/owners of the Salvucci Tower property) who took us to our destination; she had even prepared some very thoughtful touches like a fruit basket, chilled wine and food in the fridge, which, after a day on the road, was very welcome indeed!
Up to this point, we had stayed in very interesting albeit conventional lodgings; I had kept the unique nature of this property as a surprise to my family, so it is very hard to describe the full effect of their first glimpse of the Salvucci tower: imagine walking through the walled, perfectly preserved medieval town of San Gimignano on a warm Tuscan evening, the shadows lengthening, the famous stone-towers on either side -- and then to realize you are to stay in one of these 1000-year-old towers! After we finally closed our mouths, we hardly noticed the one-of-a-kind furniture pieces and decor of this 10-level apartment in our race to the top -- and then the view!
What a view!!! The sun slowly setting over the Tuscan campagna, a 360-degree unobstructed view of rolling hillsides covered in olive-trees and vineyards...church-bells tolling in the distance...and all around, the ancient stone city of San Gimignano! Words fail to describe the completely overwhelming impression of that first glimpse from the top of the tower of all that is best in historic Tuscany: unspoiled, authentic, yet utterly real.
Once the initial surprise wore off, we found that we were in a tower that had been divided into 10 stories, each one uniquely appointed with custom-designed furniture and lighting, with the whole connected by a unique, copper-clad spiral staircase. Ms Calvani took us on a tour throughout the property, explaining its various features and answering our questions, all in perfect English.
Above the lower-most level -- already several levels above the street -- was a completely furnished kitchen and dining area with a high ceiling and tall, iron-framed windows overlooking the Duomo and central piazza The third level was smaller, more of a balconied-alcove looking over the dining area; the fourth level had a completely outfitted bathroom/shower. The fifth was a small study with writing desk, while the sixth was the first of two bedrooms, outfitted with two bunk-beds, The seventh level consisted of a double-bed framed by two tall windows on either side, showing the breath-taking view of the countryside, with iron candelabra and rich curtains to complete the period setting. The eighth held another small writing desk and led to the ninth level consisting of a second bathroom, outfitted with a sink and toilet. Finally on to the tenth level, containing a second, complete kitchen with sink, stove and fridge and then up the stairs and out through the motorized, retractable glass-door onto the 'roof' of the tower.
Each level highlighted the historic nature of the property through the artistic use of authentic materials, such as solid-wood beams, heavy wooden doors, wrought-iron and beaten-copper. This parapet-area, enclosed by the thick walls of the tower, was outfitted with an outdoor table and four chairs and was well lit for use at night.
All of the appliances worked very well, the shower had ample hot-and-cold water and the beds were quite comfortable. Heating was possible, though we found we didn't need it as the temperature variation throughout the tower was minimal, thanks to the thickness of the walls. Daylight came in through the original shafts in the stone walls, each closed by its own copper-framed window, providing a particularly striking effect as each shaft was illuminated early in the morning by the rising sun. This effect was heightened by the sound of the local corbies and ravens who make their nests in niches in the stonework of the towers.
Imagine: A brilliant blue dome...the rising sun slowly cutting through the early-morning mist, punctuated only by the tolling of distant church-bells...the occasional calls of the corbies, like some ancient knights of old, called back to their old haunts...
The height of each level was more than adequate for tall people such as ourselves (~ 2 m tall), but the stairs can be narrow in places.
Parking was not a problem as there are several parking areas immediately outside the city walls, a few dozen steps from the property; fresh produce and groceries were readily available from the plentiful stores in the nearby squares.
This property is ideally suited to people in the 15 - 70+ age-range, provided they have no problems climbing stairs; we left the majority of our luggage on the second (kitchen) level, but people with larger suitcases may find negotiating the spiral stairs somewhat tricky.
All-in-all, a dream destination for those wanting to experience breathtaking views of unspoiled Tuscan countryside while living in a 1000-year-old medieval tower in the very heart of a UNESCO world heritage site. Despite my decades-long familiarity with much of Italy, this was far-and-away the most authentic historic/artistic experience I have ever had -- I would unreservedly recommend this property and the wonderful Torre Salvucci Maggiore staff to anyone who loves the unique and authentic.
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