San Gimignano, about 50 kilometers southwest of Florence, owes its almost pristine medieval appearance to a combination of location and neglect. At the height of the Middle Ages, the Via Francigena, which passes through San Gimignano, was the main route of pilgrims traveling to Rome. It was also the main trade route, useful for transporting the local saffron to profitable markets. When faster routes developed, San Gimignano declined, new building ceased, and it was all the inhabitants could do to prevent the collapse of old ones. So structures remained almost unaltered until recent restorations promoted by UNESCO set about preserving them. But despite its declining fortunes, San Gimignano still attracted important later Renaissance artists such as Domenico Ghirlandaio, Benozzo Gozzoli, and Benedetto da Maiano, whose works you'll see in its churches. The town's major attractions for tourists are the 13 towers that remain from the original 70 and give San Gimignano its distinctive skyline.