History of San Gimignano
San Gimignano was founded as a small village in the 3rd century BC by the Etruscans.
Historical records begin in the 10th century, when it adopted the name of the bishop Saint Geminianus, who had defended it from Attila's Huns.
In the Middle Ages and Renaissance era, it was a stopping point for Catholic pilgrims on their way to Rome and the Vatican, as it sits on the medieval Via Francigena. The city's development also was improved by the trade of agricultural products from the fertile neighbouring hills.
In 1199, during the period of its highest splendour, the city made itself independent from the bishops of Volterra. Divisions between Guelphs and Ghibellines troubled the inner life of the commune, which nonetheless, still managed to embellish itself with artworks and architectures.
Saint Fina, known also as Seraphina and Serafina, was a 13th century Italian saint born in San Gimignano during 1238. Since Saint Fina died on March 12, 1253 her feast day became March 12. Her major shrine is in San Gimignano and the house said to be her home still stands in the town.
On May 8, 1300, San Gimignano hosted Dante Alighieri in his role of ambassador of the Guelph League in Tuscany.
The city flourished until 1348, when the Black Death that affected all of Europe compelled it to submit to Florence. San Gimignano became a secondary centre until the 19th century, when its status as a touristic and artistic resort began to be recognised.
La Vernaccia, che bacia, lecca, morde e picca e punge
Since the Renaissance Vernaccia di San Gimignano has been considered one of Italy's finest white wines. It was the first Italian wine to be awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status in 1966; on July 9th, 1993 it was upgraded to Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).
The earliest recorded mention of the wine appear in the archives of record of San Gimignano from 1276. Due to the difficulties in cultivating the Vernaccia grape, the wine fell out of favor in the early 20th century as the more prolific Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes were planted. By the 1960s, Vernaccia di San Gimignano experienced a resurgence as its distinctive, crisp qualities established it as a popular alternative to the blander wines produced from Trebbiano and Malvasia blends.
In San Gimignano, the Vernaccia grapes planted in sandstone based vineyards tend to produce the best examples of Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The wine is characteristically dry with crisp acidity and a slightly bitter finish.
Vernaccia is mentioned by Dante Alighieri (Purgatorio XXIV) as leading to Pope Martin IV's gluttony. He ate Bolsena eels pickled in the wine:
"...ebbe la Santa Chiesa in le sue braccia:
dal Torso fu, e purga per digiuno
l’anguille di Bolsena e la vernaccia."
In the Decamerone Boccaccio cites Vernaccia in his description of the "Paese di Bengodi"
"...una contrada che si chiamava Bengodi, nella quale si legano le vigne con le salsicce e... ivi presso correva un fiumicel di vernaccia, della migliore che mai si bevve, senza avervi entro gocciola d'acqua."
Michelangelo Buonarroti jr. also writes about Vernaccia in the "Aione"
"ma i terrazzani altrui sempre fan guerra
con una traditora lor Vernaccia
che danno a bere a chiunque vi giunge
che bacia, lecca, morde e picca e punge."