Country within a country: San Marino
The republic of San Marino is the third smallest state in Europe (after Monaco and the Vatican City) and claims to be the world’s oldest republic. It’s packed in on all sides by Italy, sits 700m above sea level on Mount Titano, and is about 20km from Rimini and the Adriatic Coast. Ok, so now you know where it is.
It’s fair to say that sunny San Marino is popular as a day-trip destination, particularly for those on a wider tour of Italy, but there’s lots to see in one day…
The Three Towers of San Marino Castle
Also known as the Guaita, or First Tower, the pentagonal-shaped fortress is the oldest of the three defensive towers that overlook the city on Mount Titano. Up until 1970 the Rocca was a prison, but these days tourists can look round most of it.
Admission to La Rocca is 3, or 4.50 to include the Second Tower.
Cesta Tower (Castello della Cesta)
This tower of walkways and underpasses was built on Mount Titano’s highest summit. Take a look at the museum of arms and armour by all means, but you’ll be blown away by the great views at the top of the tower worth the climb!
The smallest tower and once a look-out post. But in its darkest depths lies a 13th century prison, eight metres deep…
It’s San Marino’s Town Hall, rebuilt in 1894, and it’s one stylish building. It costs 3 for a look round, but if you want to stay outside in the sun, you might catch the changing of the guard, eye-catching in red and green uniforms, red pom-pom’d kepi hats.
For a small country, San Marino does have more than its fair share of museums about 10 in all. Here are three that might appeal…
There are finds from the Neolithic period through to the early Middle Ages, paintings, sculptures, and antique San Marino coins and medals. A visit is a great way to find out more about San Marino’s history. Entry is 3.
Museum of Curiosities this is a really intriguing one. If you want to see the world’s longest nails, a flea trap or 60cm high wooden clogs to wear during the high waters in Venice… Entry is 7.
Museum of Torture Fancy looking at instruments of torture? Some of them date back to the XV1 or XV11 century the knee-breaker, the inquisitory chair, a skinning device. Man’s ingenuity to inflict pain is all here, so not for the squeamish. Entry is 8. Further information and a full list of museums can be found online.
Best time to visit: the months of May, June and September; July and August can be crowded.
Tradition has it that the country was founded in 301 AD by a Christian stonemason called Marinus, who took refuge there and set up a small community.
What you can do in San Marino is…
Get your passport stamped: There are no border formalities, as San Marino has an open border agreement with Italy. Visitors can have their passport stamped by the San Marino authority at the tourist information office for a small fee.
Buy some postage stamps: San Marino has issued its own stamps since 1877 and the beautiful designs are very popular with collectors.
Indulge! Try the Tre Monti (three mountain) cake: Wafers, chocolate and hazelnut cream.
Shop! San Marino is heavily reliant on its tourist trade, so there’s lots to buy clothes, clocks, handbags, wallets and more.
What you can’t do in San Marino is…
Casinos are illegal in San Marino due to the terms of an agreement with neighbouring Italy.
Go train spotting, or plane spotting
San Marino has neither a train station nor an airport, and when arriving internationally you have to get the bus from Rimini. It takes about 45 minutes and costs 4,50.
Lonely Planet Emilia-Romana, Bologna & San Marino, 3.39 Kindle Edition
Have you ever visited San Marino? Do you have some recommendations to share? Or top tips on places to go? Share your experiences with fellow travellers in the comments section below!
Image credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:San_Marino_castello_2.jpg