Most people I’ve talked to haven’t heard of San Marino. Some who have, confuse it with being part of Italy. To set the record straight, The Republic of San Marino is a small but independent nation surrounded completely by Italy.
It is one of 3 “enclave nations” in the world (The other 2 are Vatican City, and Lesotho). San Marino is the 5th smallest nation in the world, but it’s most important notable fact is that it is the oldest surviving country in the world – founded in 301 AD. As many other surrounding republics collapsed throughout history and became part of modern Italy (Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Florence, Lucca, etc) San Marino somehow managed to keep its sovereignty to this day, making it older than any other nation on Earth. At 61 square kilometers in size, it’s bigger than most people realize. The tiny nation is divided into 9 municipalities and contains multiple cities! The largest of these is Dogana, however the most popular one for tourists is the medieval settlement – the Città di San Marino, which is perched high upon Monte Titano (2,460 ft / 750m).
The Città di San Marino
Not to be confused with the nation of San Marino as a whole, the Città di San Marino (City of San Marino) is the capital city of the tiny nation, and is a beautiful one at that!
We planned to visit San Marino for a couple different reasons – to see it as tourists like most people who visit do, and to visit family! Charity’s cousin is married to a native Sammarinese and currently resides in San Marino, so exploring the country with family made the venture that much more enjoyable!
After meeting Charity’s cousin and her husband at their home, we then drove to the entrance of the medieval city, and started our climb! With the city literally sitting on the top of a mountain, the only way to go is up – so if you plan to visit, remember to pack comfortable shoes and get ready to burn some calories!
The Streets of The Città
Walking up the streets of the città reminded me of the fictional nation of “Genovia” which is portrayed in the film series The Princess Diaries staring Anne Hathaway. Besides the very charming streets lined with small shops was a strong “small nation government” presence with officers in uniform that looked like they came straight out of this movie series. Complete with the hat, gloves, and uniform – they completely fit the bill. While I didn’t have time to snatch a picture of the fantastical policeman, I was able to sneak a shot of some of the military guardsmen who were preparing for the arrival of the small nation’s top government officials into the Palazzo Pubblico – the equivalent to the “White House of San Marino”.
The Three Fortress Towers
We reached the top of the city and the fortress that overlooks the città and the country. The Castello della Guiata is a medieval fortress and the oldest of three towers constructed at the top of Monte Titano. For a small admission charge, you can get full access to the tower and climb all the way up to the top! This was adventurous and a lot of fun, because to reach the top chamber of the lookout tower you must climb up a steep ladder which opens into a hatch in the floor in the upper level! The clearance in the hole is very small, so remember to hold your breath!
Castello della Guiata
Hole with ladder to come up into the tower’s upper levels
Down the hole!
Having fun at top!
View South with Cesta Tower in distance
Once on top, you have an amazing view of San Marino and surrounding Italy from all sides. On a clear day, you can easily see the Adriatic Sea and the Italian city of Rimini on the coast. Our day wasn’t too clear, but you could barely make them out. I did my best with a picture below.
The 2nd tower is called Cesta (aka De La Fratta) and is the highest of Monte Titano’s summits. This tower features a museum which honors “Saint Marinus” – whom the country is named for, and showcases over 1,550 various weapons dating back to medieval times. If you enjoy seeing authentic medieval swords, armor, and firearms, this is the place for you! It showcases more medieval weaponry than I’ve ever seen in one place. The outside was also really cool looking with some old cannons the boys loved!
The 3rd tower is called Montale, and it’s the smallest of the three, and not open to the public.
Interesting Shops and Museums
Besides the towers, the città has many neat little shops to explore, and has some interesting museums as well. These include a museum of Torture, and a museum of Vampires! While we didn’t see these, I would love to go back someday and check them out! They looked really interesting! The city also had many scooters driving around. While most of Europe does, some of these were so cute, my son wanted one!
One of my favorite things about the Città di San Marino was that it wasn’t overly crowded. There were tourists, but it wasn’t like some other destinations we visited where there were so many people that it makes it difficult to enjoy yourself. San Marino had just the right amount.
There are many other fun activities to see and do packed into this tiny country that we didn’t get a chance to enjoy, but I’ll note some of them here for those interested.
Additional Things to See and Do
There is an aerial cable car that connects Borgo Maggiore to the historical centre. See photo below. San Marino Adventures is a large adventure-style theme park that includes all kinds of excitement. This includes zip-lining, Tibetan suspension bridges, tunnels, hiking trails, and more. It is the largest in all of Italy and San Marino.
As we have family in San Marino, we plan to return again in the future, however even if we didn’t have family there, this is a country I would definitely visit again, and one I highly recommend! If you enjoyed reading this, please drop me a comment below to let me know. Thank you!
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This Post Has 15 Comments
I enjoyed your San Marino report very much and would love to visit. Can you elaborate a bit in the Seasons, and travel route to get there? Thank you!
Hi Karen, thank you for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the article! The seasons of San Marino are very similar to those of the northern US. The small country sees warm glorious summers with temperatures reaching an average high of about 84°F (29°C) and average low of 66°F (19°C) in July and August. The summer months see a lot of sun with the occasional shower. We were there this past June and it was very comfortable and nice. October is the wettest month, but not terrible with about 1 inch of rainfall on average. Temperatures in the Fall range from the mid 50’s to 60’s (Fahrenheit). The winter months of December – February range from freezing temps to the high 40s – however being the Città di San Marino sits perched upon a fairly steep mountain, the temperatures up here could be lower and there is often a lot of snow and ice during these months. My suggestion for the best experience would be to visit between May and September. As far as getting there – I’m not sure where you’d be coming from, however if the USA, most major US based airlines offer flights into Venice, Italy – which would be the closest international airport location. There are some international airlines that fly into Bologna, Italy (which would be a little closer), however American carriers will fly into Venice, which is what I recommend. From Venice, you can either rent a car and drive, which takes approximately 3 hours – or you can take a train to Rimini, Italy (which is 10km outside San Marino) and take a bus from Rimini into San Marino.
We drove, and it wasn’t too difficult at all, especially if you use GPS which I highly recommend. If you need any further help, please let me know and I’ll be more than happy to assist! Thank you again for reading my blog and commenting! 🙂
we might have to add this to our itinerary next year when we go to Italy. I have always wondered about this land locked nation… looks like a fun (but exhausting) day!
Hi there! Thank you for your comment! Yes San Marino was a lot of fun. Actually it wasn’t as exhausting as we thought it might be. If you go I’d love to hear about it! 🙂
My husband is from there….wondering who you are related to since all his family is still there.
I will e-mail you regarding this.
And it’s the home of one of my favorite singers. Four-time Eurovision participant, Valentina Monetta.
Fascinating! I had never even heard of San Marino before. What an interesting and beautiful place! San Marino Adventures sounds like a lot of fun. Also, I am totally in love with your pictures from the lookout tower.
Thank you so much April! I really appreciate the comment. 🙂
Really good report And review, much apprecciated! We live And work in San Marino And you really described our country in a really charming way for tourists! We hope to guest you And your family soon again !
Thank you so much for the kind comment Alessandro. We absolutely loved it there and plan to visit again. So happy to be able to help drive tourism to San Marino! 🙂
Thank you for sharing your family adventure of San Marino on your blog Jimmy. We too have family in San Marino, I’ve been there to visit family three times so far and never heard of the Adventure Park! I hope to one day visit the park as well when we go back again to visit with our family of many… both of our parents came from San Marino.
Thank you so much for your comment Laura! I appreciate it greatly! 🙂
Nice to see this pop up on Facebook. My parents and brothers and sisters were born in RSM, and my sister and I were born in the US. We use to travel often when I was younger, seems like we traveled to visit every Summer. I’ve participated in the Sorgiorni Culturali of 1981 and travel there with my children in 2001. When my daughter turned 18, she too participated in the Sorgiorni Culturali. I love and respect my Sanmarinese heritage. Love to hear and see more! Thanks for the info.
Thank you so much for your comment Velma. I’m so happy you saw my post and enjoyed it! This is the reason I created this blog. To reach people who can relate to our travels and help drive family tourism. We absolutely loved San Marino and I felt writing this post might be able to help drive tourism there. So glad it’s finding more and more people! Thanks again! 🙂