Back then, two powerful families, the Salvucci Ghibellines and their rivals the Ardinghelli Guelphs, bitter enemies, were living in the city. These two families, who had become wealthy through trade and finance, took every possible opportunity to show off their strength to eachother.
In the thirteenth century, the period in which this story is set, San Gimignano was enjoying a golden age of building. San Gimignano’s town council passed a regulation at the time forbidding citizens to build towers more than 52 metres high. Since this was the height of the Rognosa Tower, the tower of the Town Hall, no building was allowed to be any higher.
However, in order to prove their supremacy, the Salvucci family decided to build two towers considerably taller than the permitted height. There was no-one in the city who could limit their power and this fact needed to be made clear to everyone, particularly their longstanding rivals the Guelphs.
The Ardinghellis, however, did not take long to retaliate: if the Ghibellines had violated the law, the Guelphs were not about to stand by and watch. And so the Guelphs began the construction of the Ardinghelli towers, expressly asking the builders to build them higher than the Rognosa Tower.
This is just one of the interesting stories about the rivalry between the two famous families of San Gimignano. The strife between the two powerful clans also extended to their servants and the city was effectively split in half. However, according to several legends, not every member of both factions was in total disagreement.
Legend has it that L’Antico Borgo San Lorenzo, now the San Gimignano B&B, was the love nest of two young lovers: one in service for the Salvuccis and the other a stable boy for the Ardinghellis. But we will leave that story for another time.