How can you be in Italy, yet not in Italy? OK, so smarty pants people will immediately say “the Vatican”, and yes they are correct. But what about another country? I had not heard of tiny San Marino, embedded in the north east of Italy. Lucky for me, Ken had known of San Marino from his childhood stamp collection, so it was on the list of places we had to visit.
San Marino has the full title of The Most Serene Republic of San Marino and the old fortified town is perched on top of Mount Titano, with a short skirt of land around the base. At only 61 square kms it’s one of Europe’s smallest nations.
Apart from the local residents, it is mostly visited by day trippers so it is really only becomes serene after 5pm.
It is easily reached firstly by train from anywhere in Italy to Rimini, then by frequent buses to San Marino. We found out that Rimini has direct flights to and from Russia, so many day trippers are Russian. Who knew?
The bus stops in a plaza where we caught a toy train up to one of the fortress town gates. For some reason the Navetta Shuttle train only takes passengers upwards, never back down. When we asked the tourist information man, he shook his head and said, ” it is a long story…” We didn’t ever find out the details.
There is plenty to see and do despite the small size of San Marino.
We explored the various twisting streets, confusing connecting stairways, plazas and ramparts with stunning vistas.
The three Towers are a must. They were linked by high walls and performed an essential function in keeping San Marino independent.
Tower One is the most visited but all three are worth seeing. The towers are the symbol of San Marino.
Close to Tower Three is an Iron Age cave shrine (6th century B. C.) Votive statues from the shrine can be seen in the State Museum.
The Tanaccia Shrine was also used by Romans, Goths and Byzantines.
We were the only people there and it is just off the path in the woods. Peaceful and calm after the busy-ness of the town streets.
If you feel like more time alone, follow the cliff path around San Marino. The Sentiero della Rupe is clearly marked and has ladder steps and ropes to help on the steeper sections. We even came across a small shrine on the track. Apparently, this trail was made during WWII to help Italians escape into neutral San Marino.
Back in town, there are many interesting churches, including the Basilica dedicated to the founder, San Marinus himself and historical convents and museums of Capuchins, Franciscans and the Clares.
The museums of San Marino range from informative to bizarre, from the State Museum to the Museum of Curiosities. Being broad minded, we had to visit both types.
This ‘saintly’ guy lived for 45 years on top of a pillar, and locals collected his dropped poo as holy relics.
The views are stunning, the town is very interesting, the food was good and serene moments are possible. Definitely a country to add to the list of must sees.
But why are there so many gun shops? Another thing we never did find out about. Maybe next time.
Note: Since this post was published a reader has informed us that the guns are all replicas and not real.
If you want to know more here is a link to the official government tourism website www.visitsanmarino.com