San Marino is a beautiful microstate tucked in the mountains of eastern Italy, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. I visited here in 2011 and was glad to have made the excursion from Rimini! While there are a few town in San Marino, I only visited the eponymous capital, where most of the action and sights are located.
San Marino was founded in 301 AD by Saint Marinus — a mason who established an independent monastic community here, fleeing persecution from Roman Emperor Diocletian. With these ancient roots, San Marino has a claim to being the world’s oldest existing sovereign state and constitutional republic.
While it’s not accessible by train, it’s an easy bus or car ride from Rimini, on the Adriatic coast. I took a bus from Rimini, which dropped off passengers in a parking lot at the base of the steep, winding streets of the old city. (Walking is by far the best option for getting around the city!)
The capital sits on the steep Monte Titano, featuring a well-fortified walled old city, with a cobblestone medieval atmosphere. Looking back throughout history, I pitied anyone who had the unenviable task of invading over the years. With its seemingly impregnable fortresses, surrounded by steep cliffs, San Marino definitely holds the high ground advantage.
The city’s primary defense system was centered around three castle towers, built in the 11th Century. Each of these are open for visits, containing historical exhibits (including weapons and other artifacts) and offering views over the plains below, screeching out to the sea. The Guaita Tower, Falesia Tower, and the Montale Tower each have a distinct feeling and are within walking distance of one-another, making it easy to see all three.
The Palazzo Pubblico is the heart of the city and the seat of San Marino’s government, featuring a Liberty Statue and a few restaurants and cafes. The nearby Cava dei Balestrieri — or Crossbowman’s Quarry– hosts the Crossbowmen’s Palio festival every September 3 (as part of national day festivities), along with an annual medieval festival in July. San Marino offers plenty of great shopping opportunities–and the narrow roads of the old city are packed with shops that serve as a distraction from the steep uphill paths. The city also boasts a large Basilica from the mid-1800s with relics from San Marino, as well as several art galleries, and museums.
We ate at Bar Piadineria La Capanna, a simple restaurant with great pizza and even better views over the land below — stretching out to sea. I definitely recommend stopping here, even if just for an espresso!
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by all that San Marino had to offer. While I only made it here for a day trip with the Yakpacker parents, it was a truly unique and memorable excursion — I high recommend it for anyone travelling in central Italy!