San Miniato is an interesting hilltop town halfway between Pisa and Florence. It has interesting, historical buildings, including the Torre di Federico II, the cathedral and the seminary building at the Republic Square. The town is also the capital of truffles. At the end of September, the Festival of white truffles and porcini mushrooms takes place here. Of course, you can buy local truffle preserves in many shops, and you can taste appropriate dishes in restaurants.
We recommend to park the car in the Fonte alle Fate parking lot (P; GPS: 43.680616, 10.850610), located in the very center of the town (although it is difficult to speak of a real center here), near the Frederick II tower. The parking lot is under the hill on which the town was built. To get to it, you should simply take the elevator! It makes a great impression - after reaching the top you will have the opportunity to admire the beautiful views from the terrace.
The town is actually located along one meandering road. The other streets come out of it and lead for example to the Frederick tower or the Franciscan monastery. First we will walk the Via 4 Novembre towards the western border of the village, then we will come back and go in the opposite direction along Via Augusto Conti and Via Pietro Rondo, passing the main square Piazza della Republica.
After exiting the lift, we go right the Via Augusto Conti and Via Ser Ridolfo streets towards the Via 4 Novembre street. On the way, we pass a small square, Piazza del Popolo. There is the Via Angelica museum with frescoes from the 18th century and interesting decorations from the end of the 14th century. Opposite the square stands the church of San Domenico from the 14th century (A; GPS: 43.679712, 10.849236) with an interesting, single-nave interior with side chapels decorated with numerous paintings and frescoes.
Leaving the church, we go left the Via 4 Novembre street, passing many interesting buildings along the way, including the Griffoni Palace (B; GPS: 43.6786017, 10.847181)), the church della Santissima Annunziata (C; GPS: 43.677882, 10.846013), and finally the Monastery of St. Clara turned into a museum (D; GPS: 43.676785, 10.844505). There are also many shops along the road where you can buy local things, including of course various truffle products.
We go back the same way, and then through Piazza Duomo, where the cathedral stands, we go towards the Frederick II tower (Rocca di Federico II or Torre di Federico II), built in the 13th century, destroyed during World War II, but rebuilt in 1958 (E; GPS: 43.6808852, 10.8530659). The new tower, which is a faithful reproduction of the old one and has become a symbol of the town, has a slightly trapezoidal shape and is 37 meters high. The tower can be visited (ticket price 3€). There are 129 steps (quite shallow and wide) to walk. From the top you have the opportunity to admire the Tuscan countryside.
There is the cathedral di Santa Maria Assunta e San Genesio (F; GPS: 43.6797225, 10.8514807) at the Piazza Duomo (as the name suggests). The church, which became a cathedral in 1622 when San Miniato was elevated to the status of a diocesan seat, is located in an ancient citadel dominated by the fortress and the tower of Frederick II. It is the oldest part of the town, in which, in addition to the cathedral, you can find the Bishops' Palace and the Imperial Vicar's Palace.
The beautiful interior has a neo-Renaissance architectural development, mainly the result of 19th-century works by Pietro Bernardini, with baroque decorations. The three aisles are separated by two series of circular arches supported on Ionic columns with polychrome imitation marble. Interesting sculptures and paintings deserve attention.
Going eastwards, we pass Piazza della Repubblica with an architectonically interesting building of the seminary (G; GPS: 43.6791458, 10.8514456). When San Miniato became a bishopric, it was decided to build a theological seminary. In 1650, it was decided to build a small quarters for 12 clergymen in the area nearby the cathedral. The works were finished in 1713.
The concave, multi-faceted facade decorated with frescoes on the outside, closes the square (formerly called Piazza del Seminario). The front of the building was decorated by the painter Fucecchio Francesco Chimenti, who at the beginning of the 18th century painted an allegory of Virtues on it.
Going further the Via Pietro Rondoni street we pass interesting buildings on the way, including the Town Hall (H; GPS: 43.6795270, 10.8525402) or the Chapel of Our Lady of Loreto - a building built in the years 1285-1295 as a private chapel of the neighboring Palazzo del Popolo. Then we reach the former Holy Trinity Monastery (I; GPS: 43.6798744, 10.8537604), which was built at the end of the 16th century on the site of the ancient Palazzo del Podestà. Today, the convent church belongs to the Arciconfraternita della Misericordia.
Finally, we arrive at the Piazza Bonaparte square (J; GPS: 43.6802626, 10.8554700) - an interesting, triangular area surrounded by old buildings. Interestingly, there is a monument in the middle of the square - not of Napoleon, but of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold II. The name of the square comes from the fact that in San Miniato lived the Bonaparte family. Napoleon Bonaparte - yes, this famous emperor - came to San Miniato during his campaign in Italy in 1796 to meet Filippo Bonaparte. Who was Filippo? He was a priest and the last descendant of the Bonaparte family (the uncle of Napoleon) to reside in this palace as its guest. It turns out that Napoleon's family had Italian noble roots and owned most of their property in San Miniato.