Get some useful information about San Marino here to make your trip more enjoyable.
The world is full of exotic locations that stir your imagination – countries that speak languages you’ve never heard of before, food you could never have imagined yourself, and traditions that show you how diverse people really are.
There are big cities and famous destinations like the Parises and New Yorks of this world, but then there are those smaller ones whose name you may have heard for the very first time.
If you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable trip to a country that’s small enough to be explored at your own relaxed pace, then San Marino could be the perfect place for you.
Surrounded by Italy on all sides, the enclaved micro state San Marino is the oldest republic and surviving sovereign state in the world – dating back to year 301!
Perched on top of a hill, clinging to steep cliffs, is the country’s capital city “San Marino”.
The World Factbook states that at 61 square kilometers, San Marino is the 3rd smallest small state in Europe, its size being about a third of Washington D.C.
Geographically an enclave, San Marino is entirely enclosed within Italy, which makes it a very popular day trip destination for those visiting other popular Italian cities.
On the day we went to visit, the town which on a clear day offers views from all sides overlooking the hills and valleys of the tiny country, was instead hidden from the outside world by a thick mist.
Although I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to miss out on the awesome views, the misty atmosphere added to the medieval vibe of the town, which by the way was incredibly well preserved.
Reaching over the stoned walls it was impossible to see the ground below through the mist, which made it feel as though the fortified town was floating in the air – it was easy to see why Giuseppe Garibaldi (a leader of the Italian unification movement) chose the secluded San Marino as his hiding place when escaping his enemies.
In appreciation, he let San Marino remain independent when the rest of the Italian peninsula was forced to be unified.
During its long and fascinating history, the tiny country San Marino has survived by charming their way past big leaders like Napoleon – and still today it charms its visitors even on the greyest of days.
Things to do in San Marino
Just because it is small doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in San Marino. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of attractions that can keep your days and nights busy. It’s even an advantage that the area is relatively small, because that means you can explore it easily. Here are some of the best activities and attractions you can look forward to when visiting San Marino:
- Visit the Fortresses of Mount Titano
A visit to San Marino would not be complete without heading to its capital, the City of San Marino (locally known at Città di San Marino or simply Città). There you’ll find San Marino’s highest point, Mount Titano, which has the most splendid views of the countryside, the Apennine mountains, and even the coast. You can head to three different fortresses: Guaita, Cesta, and Montale.
Each fortress will give you a different part of history. Rocca Guaita dates as early as 1253 and is the oldest of the three. Cesta on the other hand contains the Museum of Historical Weapons, where you’ll find around 1,550 weapons from as early as the medieval times. These fortresses and towers are a must-visit when you’re in San Marino, and the breathtaking views from the top of that mountain are to die for.
- Hear Mass at the Basilica del Santo
A neo-classical style first Basilica built in 1826 before it was demolished and rebuilt, visiting this religious site is not only good for those interested in architecture and religion. It has massive Corinthian columns and a beautiful bell tower, but more than that, it’s significant because this is where you can find the relics of St. Marino.
- Explore the Quirky Museums
San Marino in itself is a living and breathing historical artifact, but there are a number of interesting museums you can explore. You have the Museum of Curiosities, the Wax Museum, the Coin and Stamp Museum, and even the Museum of the Agricultural Culture and Traditions. Another museum you shouldn’t miss is the Museo di Stato or the National Museum.
- Watch the Changing of the Guard
The neo-Gothic Palazzo Pubblico is where you’ll find the heart of San Marino’s political scene. It contains the town hall and is where all the important ceremonies take place. The plaza in front of it is the Piazza della Libertà, where you’ll find tourists all day and where you can witness the Guardie di Rocca changing of the guard ceremony.
- Sample the Local Cuisine
Food is a very important part of San Marino life, and you should never leave this place without sampling the best that local cuisine has to offer. Enjoy the locally grown produce and the rich flavors of their Mediterranean offerings. Local family-owned restaurants will surely tickle your taste buds with recipes passed on from generation to generation. Make sure you sample the wine as well.
San Marino is the oldest republic and surviving sovereign state in the world
Aside from all these attractions, perhaps the best motivation for paying a visit to San Marino is that it’s actually the oldest republic in the world. Established as early as 301 A.D., San Marino is also the oldest sovereign state with the oldest constitution that you can find, so visiting it today will be akin to traveling back in time and taking a piece of world history home with you.
With only 30,000 citizens, it is called The Most Serene Republic of San Marino and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also has the smallest population out of all the countries in the Council of Europe. It’s certainly a welcome break from visiting countries with dense populations and a lot of people. Tourism is picking up, so you’ll most likely bump into a lot of tourists and visitors who like you would want to experience the San Marino magic.