As you crest the nearby hills, the 14 towers of this walled town rise up like a medieval Manhattan. Originally an Etruscan village, the settlement was named after the bishop of Modena, San Gimignano, who is said to have saved the city from Attila the Hun. It became a comune (local government) in 1199, prospering in part because of its location on the Via Francigena. Building a tower taller than their neighbours’ (there were originally 72) became a popular way for prominent families to flaunt their power and wealth. In 1348 plague wiped out much of the population and weakened the local economy, leading to the town’s submission to Florence in 1353. Today, not even the plague would deter the swarms of summer day-trippers, who are lured by a palpable sense of history, intact medieval streetscapes and enchanting rural setting.