The Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), built in 1288, houses the “historic” seat of the Musei Civici (Civic Museums) of San Gimignano. A walk through the museum lets visitors admire famous fresco cycles conveying the sense of civic pride that has always animated this government palace.
On the first floor is the ancient Sala del Consiglio (Council Room), also known as the Sala di Dante (Hall of Dante) in memory of the Florentine poet’s visit to San Gimignano in 1299 as embassador of the Guelph league. Frescoes here show scenes of the hunt and a tournament dedicated to Charles of Anjou, painted by Azzo di Masetto (1290 circa). The room is dominated by the magnificent Maestà by the Sienese painter Lippo Memmi (1317), inspired by the masterpiece that Memmi’s brother-in-law Simone Martini had painted in the Sala del Mappamondo at Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico in 1315.
On the second floor are the Camera del Podestà (Chamber of the Podestà), decorated with delightful scenes of earthly love painted by Memmo di Filippuccio from 1303 to 1310, and the rooms of the Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery) where fundamental examples from San Gimignano’s history of artistic commissions may be admired. Florentine art is represented here (Coppo di Marcovaldo) as is Sienese art (Rinaldo), from the second half of the 1200s and on through to the Golden Age of the Sienese School during the second half of the 1300s. The alternation between the Sienese and the Florentines is shown during the transition from the 1300s to the 1400s (Taddeo di Bartolo, Lorenzo di Niccolò and the “Maestro of 1419”), leading up to the definitive dominance of the Florentines (Benozzo Gozzoli, Filippino Lippi, Sebastiano Mainardi) who contributed to the Renaissance renewal of San Gimignano, and finally the ultimate zenith achieved by the great altarpiece that Pinturicchio painted in 1511.
From the Pinacoteca gallery, it is possible to gain access to the Torre Grossa (Great Tower), erected from 1300 to 1311, which provides a breathtaking, panoramic view of the entire city and on to the surrounding countryside of the Valdelsa, all the way to the mountains of Pistoia and the Apuan Alps.