San Marino is Europe’s third smallest state after the Vatican and Monaco. The tiny state with a surface of only 61 km2, lies on a hilly ground close to Rimini, in the east of Italy, of which is fully surrounded and with which it shares history, the Italian language, the currency, and the cuisine. The 30000 people that live here are called Sammarinese, not Italians, and are very proud of their independence.
Perched on top of Monte Titano, The Most Serene Republic of San Marino impresses the tourists with its historical center inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List and gorgeous panoramic views over the surrounding Italian countryside and the Adriatic.
How to get to San Marino?
In order to get to San Marino by public transport, you have to take a bus from Rimini. Tickets can be bought from the tourist office next to the train station and a return ticket costs 10 euro. No booking is necessary and the tickets can be used anytime. The ride on the twisty road that climbs up the mountain from Rimini to San Marino takes one hour.
How to get to Rimini?
Rimini has its own airport, but there is a big chance you won’t land there. If you go first to Bologna, you can either take a bus directly from the airport for 20 euro one way or the train from the main station in Bologna. Tickets start from 9.85 euro one way and the trains leave every half an hour.
Where to sleep in San Marino?
We’ve stayed at Hotel Joli and if you want a cheap place just outside the city walls, I suggest you do the same. It cost us 50 euro/night/two persons, breakfast included. The hotel did not impress in any way but did its job well and the location is great.
What to eat in San Marino?
As it has once been part of Italy, its cuisine is pretty similar and includes piadina, pizza, pasta, lasagna, seafood, and gelato. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant where we ate, but it was nothing special anyway.
The country has its own brew, Titanbräu, but unfortunately, you’ll hardly find it. The brewery could not handle its distribution and even if there were enough clients for it, you won’t find it in any shop. There are some bars that still have it. As it is difficult to find, it is also more expensive. We’ve paid 6 euro for a 500ml bottle.
In 301, a stonemason, Marinus of Arbe, was sent to Rimini to rebuild the walls of the city. As he was persecuted for being a Christian, he fled to the top of a hill nearby, where he built a church with a stone tower and founded his own town.
Almost 1500 years later, Napoleon offered to extend the territory of the country, but its inhabitants refused.
During the Second World War, San Marino decided to be neutral, even if the republic lies in the middle of Italy. Fearing that they would divulge their secrets to the enemies, the Italians cut down the phone lines to San Marino.
Today, San Marino is as the oldest republic in the world. It is a member of the Council of Europe and the United Nations, but not of the European Union, even if they have established diplomatic relations and the small nation uses euro as its currency.
More than half of the income of the country comes from tourism.
You won’t believe it but…
Abraham Lincoln was an honorary citizen of the country. In the National Museum is displayed a letter from 1861 in which he has written about San Marino: “Although your dominion is small, your State is nevertheless one of the most honored in all history.”
- San Marino has never won an Olympic medal.
- The football team of San Marino is the last in the world ranking. Once, it lost in front of Germany with 0 to 13.
When we visited the country, there was a qualification game between Scottland and San Marino. There had come more than 3000 scots to support their team. I had never seen so many scots in wearing socks, kilts, and Glengarry bonnets. Not even the Sammarinese thought they could win, as I’ve overheard in a bar. In the end, Scottland won with 2-0.
Are you wondering where their stadium is? Maybe on top of a mountain and somebody stays in Burgo Maggiore just to catch the balls? Of course not. Even if the country is small, it has 9 municipalities. The stadium lies close to Dogana, on the way to Rimini.
In order to visit the city, you’ll have to go up and down steps and steep hills, but it will be worth it. These are its main attractions:
- The three towers, Guaita Rocca, Cesta, and Montale, built on three peaks of Monte Titano became the national symbol. They appear on the flag, on the coat of arms, carved into stone on various walls and on the national cake, La Torta de Tre Monti. One can enter the first two towers and visit the Museum of Ancient Arms in the second one, that also stands on the highest peak at 750 m. The interior of the third tower can’t be visited, but you can walk the 5 minutes path from the second tower to it.
- Palazzo Publico, the town hall of the country and Piazza della Liberta with the Statue of Liberty. During the summer season, from May to September, guards in the national costume watch the palace and there is even a change of guards every hour. At any time of the year, Piazza della Liberta is the perfect place to watch the sunset.
- Basilica di San Marino and the chapel of Saint Pietro next to it.
- More museums than one could consider normal for such a small country, both state (First and Second Tower, Pinacoteca of San Francesco, The National Museum, The gallery of modern and contemporary art, Palazzo Publico) and privately owned (Museum delle Curiosita, delle Cere, dei Vampiri, della Tortura, dell’Emigrante, di Storia Naturale, della civilta Contadina). The price of a ticket to one of the state owned museums is 4.5 euro. It costs 6.5 euro to visit any two of them and 10.5 euro to visit all of them.
- The cafes and small shops that dot the hilly medieval streets of San Marino. The country is a tax heaven and the prices are much lower compared to Italy. You’ll find anything you could ever dream of in its shops: jewelry, watches, decorations, Venetian masks, perfumes, pasta, alcoholic beverages, toys, souvenirs, cigarettes, weapons, etc. San Marino has more cars than people because it is tax heaven and a lot of the Italians in the neighboring cities decide to register their cars there and pay less.
- The old locomotive of the train to Rimini from 1932.
- Burgo Maggiore, the town down the hill. It is even quieter than San Marino, but has a nice flair. You can get down by cable car or on foot and take the bus to Rimini from there.
The choice of souvenirs is huge, most of them related to Italy. If you want something that can only be found in San Marino, you can get your passport stamped at the tourist office for 5 euro. A visa is not necessary to enter San Marino, but can make for an excellent souvenir.
As you can see, San Marino is a real country. It even has its own radio, cinema, two theaters, an university, a post office, and a library. It only lacks one thing. I was surprised to see that the Most Serene Republic of San Marino stays true to its official name and is one of the quietest places I’ve ever been to, which the locals are very happy with. After 7 pm may you have the town only for yourself, even on a Friday. For some nightlife, tourists and Sammarinese have to go to Rimini.
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