Castel San Gimignano
(Siena) Italy


Tel. + 39 0577 953140
Fax + 39 0577 953142


Vernaccia and Saffron, tastes of the town


Among San Gimignano's local products the first place goes to Vernaccia, one of Italy's finest white wines produced exclusively in and around the hill town of San Gimignano. Another product for which San Gimignano is known is saffron. This product is widely used all over the world and it is sought-after and particularly expensive due to it's laborious production. Saffron was the source of San Gimignano's prosperity. It is said that the towers were built with the proceeds from this valuable spice. It is traditionally added to many meat dishes and soup recipes.

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Among San Gimignano's local products the first place goes to Vernaccia, one of Italy's finest white wines produced exclusively in and around the hill town of San Gimignano.
The wine is a golden-yellow color and characteristically dry with crisp acidity and a slight bitter finish. 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).
It has an alcoholic degree of 11% to 11.5 %. It is an excellent aperitif and pairs well with fish or white meat dishes. Served cool at a temperature that varies from 11-12 degrees C. Among the many local products, none is more closely linked to the history of San Gimignano than the wine officially known as Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

The earliest recorded mention of the wine appears in the archives in 1200, when Vieri de Bardi approved the cultivation of the surrounding vineyards. His descendants continued the cultivation and expanded with exportation at the end of the 19th century. The town's archives preserves documents such as the introduction of the "three coin" tax for every unit of Vernaccia exported. Among the documents we can also find the introduction of the concept of 'quality control'. Legal officials (Pesatori di Vernaccia) rated wine quality annually. Vernaccia is mentioned in literature by Dante Alighieri (Purgatorio XXIV) as leading to Pope Martin IV's gluttony.



The documented history of saffron cultivation is very ancient. Saffron being such an expensive product it had a prime role in the town's economy. In 1228 the town of San Gimignano compelled to pay the debts undertaken during the siege of Castello della Nera honored it's obligation using part cash and part saffron. In 1276 they imposed a duty on saffron exports thereby greatly increasing town revenue. In 1295 the council decided to assign two officials adept at weighing saffron to be premanently present at the gates of the city where the export duty was levied.

The extremely pure saffron of San Gimignano is produced naturally without the use of chemicals in all phases of it's cultivation, drying and conservation. The saffron stamens are packaged whole in order to guarantee their quality and to protect their pungent and slightly bitter aroma. Among the many quality products of the San Gimignano area, saffron's cultivation was reintroduced thanks to the Associazione Il Croco. The reintroduction of this famous spice was possible due to the participation of the University of Florence.


Several old paintings, including the 14 C fresco called “Effetti del Buongoverno” and painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Comunale of Siena, demonstrate the presence of this breed in Tuscany since 14 C. The Cinta Senese is the only Tuscan native pig bread to survive extinction.

The snout is long, and the animal has black hair and a white band from which its name is derived. The pigs grow free in the forests eating grass and acorns. The very low fat is not separate from the lean, and it provides flavour and taste. In the 1980s, due to the changes in agricultural system, the breed suffered a severe numerical reduction. Today there are about 200 sows in 80 herds. Most of the herds have been started for breeding less then 10 years ago, often as a hobby or in connection with agritourism, but increasingly for production of lard, salami, prosciutto etc.

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