San Marino Europe

San Marino: Europe’s Most Underrated Destination?

Julie San Marino 6 Comments

San Marino is a tiny, independent nation completely surrounded by Italy. It has a spectacular location, nestled in the mountains near the Adriatic Sea. The capital city, also called San Marino, is a maze of hilly, medieval streets, dotted with cafes and small shops. From the guard towers and the piazzas, the views over the surrounding countryside are gorgeous.

San Marino

San Marino is a picture perfect town with a stunning setting. So, why don’t more people travel here?

We are no different. In 2014, we spent almost one month in Italy and we didn’t even consider a visit to San Marino. It just doesn’t get the hype that other nearby destinations do (like Rome, Florence, and Venice).

Maybe this is a good thing. For those in the know, fewer visitors makes strolling the city streets and enjoying the views from the towers a less crowded experience.

San Marino is a country that exceeded our expectations. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun to explore, the views over the vineyards of nearby Italy are breathtaking, and the food is delicious.

View from San Marino

Interesting Facts About San Marino

San Marino is Europe’s third smallest state, with only the Vatican and Monaco being smaller. It is also the world’s oldest republic, having been founded in 301 by a stonemason named Marinus.

The city of San Marino sits upon Monte Titano. This ancient city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

San Marino is not part of the European Union although they do use the euro as currency.

San Marino made Abraham Lincoln an honorary citizen.

Do not call the people who live here Italians (they are referred to as Sammarinese). They are very proud of their independence from Italy.

San Marino Sign

About Our Experience

We were based in the Italian seaside town of Cervia for Ironman Italy. Our close proximity to San Marino made it much more convenient for Tim and I to get to San Marino during this visit to Italy. From Cervia, it was just an hour drive to get to San Marino.

The day before our visit here I raced Ironman Italy. We could not have picked a hillier destination to walk around right after a big race. San Marino has tons of steps and some seriously steep hills to walk up and down, and my legs were very sore and tired. It was slow going for me today.

Julie Rivenbark

When we arrived in San Marino, the skies were bright and sunny. The views over the countryside are simply amazing. Why did we wait so long to see this?!

The view before rain

Another side effect of racing is a huge appetite the next day. Before walking the city streets, Tim and I sat down to a big Italian meal. Like many meals in Europe, it’s a long, leisurely experience, which would not be to our benefit today. As we dined on pasta and drank wine, rain clouds moved in.

Just as we hit the streets to start exploring, the skies opened up, and it thundered and poured buckets of rain for an hour and a half. Those gorgeous views…gone behind rain clouds and fog. It was so disappointing (and chillier now!!).

Despite the wet, foggy conditions, Tim and I walked through the town, climbed the towers, and took photos. Even in the rainy weather this is a gorgeous spot. But trust me, if you are lucky enough to be here on a sunny day, San Marino is jaw dropping, and maybe one of the prettiest spots in Europe.

Things to do in San Marino

Wander the Streets

The city of San Marino is small and it is possible to walk most of it in just a few hours. It is so clean and so picturesque that Tim and I felt like we were walking through a movie set.

Small shops are found throughout the city. There were a surprising number of perfume shops, sunglasses shops, and shops selling an assortment of weapons.

San Marino Entrance

San Marino in Rain

Pizzeria

Things to do in San Marino

Piazza della Liberta

This is San Marino’s most popular public square. From here, enjoy the view over the countryside, watch the changing of the guard, and see the Palazzo Pubblico, San Marino’s town hall and its most iconic building.

Palazzo Pubblico

You can enter the Palazzo Pubblico on the days the council is not working. Once inside, see the chambers and the letter from Abraham Lincoln to San Marino honoring the country.

Climb the Towers

This was our favorite thing to do in San Marino. Three towers and lengths of fortress walls can be climbed and explored. They offer fabulous views, even on a rainy day like we had.

Guaita

This is the oldest and the grandest of the three towers. It was built in the 11th century. Not only can you take in the view from the tower but you can also walk along the ramparts.

Be prepared for lots of steps. There is one challenging, steep staircase that is more like a ladder to get to the top of the tower.

Guaita

Guaita View

Nice View

San Marino in September

The photo below is the view of Cesta Tower seen from Guaita Tower.

Guaita Tower View

Cesta

This tower sits on the highest peak of Monte Titano. You can climb the tower and visit the museum displaying weapons from the medieval times to present day.

Cesta View

The photo below is the view back to Guaita Tower.

View from Cesta Tower

Montale

This is the third tower and not worth visiting, in our opinion. There is no entrance into the tower and it is a 10-minute walk down stairs and through the woods to get here. The views from Guaita and Cesta are much better.

Montale San Marino

Cava dei Balestrieri

If you get lucky with your timing, you may be able to watch as the crossbow shooters put on a show.

Cava dei Balestrieri

Weird Museums

There are several small, unique museums you can visit while in San Marino. These include the Torture Museum, the Museum of Curiosity, and the World of Leonardo.

Museum of Torture

Getting Here

The most convenient way to get to San Marino is by car. You can drive right up to the city and there are numerous parking garages to park your car.

San Marino does not have an airport and no trains go to San Marino.

If you are dependent upon public transportation, you can take a bus from Rimini to the city center. Buses run frequently throughout the day and cost €5 one way, €10 round trip. Here is a link to the bus schedule for 2017 – 2018.

How Much Time Do You Need?

The city of San Marino is small so a day is all that you need. You could visit San Marino as a day trip from Bologna (2 hour drive one way). From Florence and Tuscany it is also possible to do this as a day trip, but at 3 hours one way, expect to spend a lot of time in your car.

Although we did not do this, I think an overnight stay in San Marino would be a wonderful experience. Have a leisurely dinner, watch the sunset, and enjoy the quiet city streets after the day-trippers go home.

Here Comes the Sun


Does San Marino look like a place you would like to visit? Comment below if you have any questions or advice for our readers.

Read Next: Fairytale Destinations: 10 Magical Places to Visit in Your Lifetime

 

San Marino Travel and Tourism

Comments 6

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      Author

      Isn’t it great when you travel to a new place and it’s better than you expected it to be? Well, for us, that was San Marino. Loved the hilly streets and towers to climb. What a joy to visit! Cheers, Julie

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! San Marino has been added to my to-do list! You and your family are truly inspirational:)

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      Author
  2. Julie and Tim:
    First, congratulations Julie on competing and finishing Ironman Italy!
    Second, I feel like a voyeur reading about your trip to San Marino and viewing your amazing pictures.
    Third, welcome home!

    Mary

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      Author

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