Julie Italy, San Marino 18 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. In this guide, we cover the best things to do in San Marino and how to plan your time here.

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.

In 2017, on our second visit to Italy, we spent one wonderful day in San Marino.

This 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 things to do in 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 things to do in San Marino

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.

Best Things to Do in San Marino

Wander the Streets

Simply strolling the city streets is one of the best things to do in San Marino.

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 things to do in San Marino

San Marino in Rain things to do in San Marino

Pizzeria things to do in San Marino

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

Piazza della Liberta | Things to Do in San Marino

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.


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 Tower | Things to Do in San Marino


Guaita View

Nice View

San Marino in September things to do in San Marino


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

Guaita Tower View


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 things to do in San Marino

Cesta Tower | Things to Do in San Marino


The photo below is the view back to Guaita Tower.

View from Cesta Tower things to do in San Marino


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

Montale | Things to Do in 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 things to do in San Marino

Cava dei Balestrieri | Things to Do in San Marino

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 things to do in San Marino

How to Get to San Marino

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.

Here are the driving distances and times from other locations in Italy:

  • RIMINI: 22 km, 30 minutes
  • RAVENNA: 82 km, 1 hour 15 minutes
  • BOLOGNA: 130 km, 1 hour 45 minutes
  • FLORENCE: 250 km, 3 hours
  • ROME: 330 km, 4 hours 30 minutes
  • VENICE: 280 km, 3 hours

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 €6 one way, €12 round trip. Here is a link to the bus schedule.

How Much Time Do You Need in San Marino?

On the quickest of visits, a few hours is all you need to stroll the city streets, climb the towers, and visit Piazza della Liberta.

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.

More Information for Your Trip to San Marino

ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for five different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Rome, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and Venice. For those with more time, check out our 14 day Italy itinerary, which covers the highlights of Italy.

PUGLIA: Read about 15 beautiful places to visit in Puglia and the best things to do in Alberobello. We also have a guide to the best things to do on the Gargano Peninsula, how to spend one day in Vieste, and about how to take a boat tour to visit the Gargano sea caves.

MATERA: Matera is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Italy. Here is a list of the best things to do in Matera.

FLORENCE: If you are planning your first visit to Florence, don’t miss our guide to the 10 Best Things to Do in Florence and how to spend two days in Florence. We also have guides about the best rooftop bars in Florence, the best viewpoints in Florence, and how to visit the Florence Cathedral.

ROME: For a list of the top experiences in Rome, read our article Best Things to Do in Rome. Learn how to put these together in our 2 Day Rome Itinerary, where to eat in our Rome Restaurant Guide, how to visit the Colosseum, and where to stay in our Rome Hotel Guide. And don’t miss our guide to the Best Rooftop Bars in Rome.


Are you planning a trip to San Marino as part of your tour through Italy? Read all about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide.


San Marino Travel Guide


San Marino Travel and Tourism

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Comments 18

  1. Avatar for JC SANTA TERESA

    Hi Julie! I love the photos and info’s. My friends and I will be in Rome in March 2024 and planning on going to San Marino after the race.
    Are there places where we can run (maybe a 5K distance)? Parco Ausa or Parco di Montecchio. Any recommendations is much appreciated!



    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I think it is going to be hard to get in a 5K run in the town of San Marino. It isn’t very big and it’s hilly and some of the streets are narrow. If you did that, you would have to do several loops. Below the town you might have better luck but I don’t know where to tell you to go, since we spent all of our time up in town. On Google, look at San Marino in 3D so you can get a better idea of the location of the town on the hill and how hilly the streets are. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for GECKOMASTERAD
  3. Avatar for Nancy

    Hi Julie,

    First, I LOVED your site. So much insights and inspirations. Thank you for sharing.

    My husband and I will be heading to Italy next week (part work and part pleasure). I am considering driving from Florence to San Marino, stay one night in San Marino, then drive to Venice. Do you think that is wise? Do you have suggestion on where to rent car – pick up in Florence and drop off in Venice?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, I think that is very wise. 😉 We loved San Marino and staying overnight sounds wonderful. You could check AutoEurope.com for rental car prices. Hopefully, prices shouldn’t be too bad since you are dropping the car in the same country (there can be big drop fees in Europe). The best thing to do is to rent the car in Florence and drop it in Venice. Typically, we rent from the big companies, like Hertz, Avis, Budget, etc, but who we choose really comes down to who is offering the best price at the time (and it can vary day by day). Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Mish
  5. Avatar for Karen

    I believe this is one of the best articles I’ve read about San Marino. Thank you! May I ask, did you find the drive into San Marino scary or at all treacherous? My daughter and I will be making a day trip from Montecatini in February. Just a bit nervous about the narrow, windy road in winter.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Karen. It’s a short, windy drive to get up to the parking areas but it’s not treacherous or difficult to drive. No drop-offs or anything like that. If there is snow, then that can change things, but hopefully your drive will be snow free. Have fun! Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Coco

    Thank you for the tips of travelling to Italy and San Marino. And it gives me more insights to drive from Venice to San Marino when I am planning a trip this summer.

    Your family’s story of travelling around the world is very inspiring!


    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  7. Avatar for Kristin

    My son will be playing in an international soccer tournament in San Marino this summer, I don’t see where there could possibly soccer fields. Are there areas below the capital city?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      The old town that tourists visit sits on top of the mountain. San Marino has land that stretches out from the bottom of the mountain. This is where the soccer fields will be. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Pilot Mark
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      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

  9. Avatar for Calley Bierend
    Calley Bierend

    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:)

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  10. Avatar for Mary Krizansky
    Mary Krizansky

    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!


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

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