At some point in the 12th century, the rival families of San
Gimignano began a tower building competition.
Apparently the towers were meant as a display of power
and wealth. There are numerous other theories. Clearly
this activity got out of hand, and further tower building
was banned prior to the 14th century.
At the height of the building boom San Gimignano
had 72 towers, only some of which still survive.
These are more than enough to earn the town its
modern designation as "medieval Manhattan" and
attract large numbers of tourists.
I was taking these pictures in October 2001. At
some point the two towers on the left provided a
sad spark of recognition.
From this angle, they certainly looked like
another pair of twin towers.
If you have a high speed internet connection, watch the Intrepid
Berkeley Explorer's free video that is 100% Italy, by clicking
on Gondola With the Wind 2 ; also see Rome, Florence, Pisa,
and Venice by clicking on the earlier Gondola With the Wind