San Marino - Italian Notes

San Marino

Old Republic in the Heart of Italy

Old fortresses perched on top of mountains and the smallness of the state turns a holiday in San Marino into a fairy tale adventure. 

Once upon a time, before the Italian unification 151 years ago, the Italian peninsula consisted of numerous independent states. The last one standing is the Republic of San Marino. A few mountain tops with a total area of 61 km2 – the size of Manhattan – in the backland 15 km from the bustling beaches on the Adriatic coast and just behind Rimini. As the oldest surviving sovereign state in the world, the 300.000 inhabitants of San Marino enjoy several privileges, such as low taxation rates and the right to design their own euros and print their own stamps.

A Fortified Hill Top

The old fortresses perched on top of the mountains and the smallness of the state turns a holiday in San Marino into fairy tale adventure. There’s an open border agreement with Italy surrounding San Marino on all sides, but you can still have your passport stamped by authorities at a passport office in the “capital” for the price of 5 euroes. And the geography and steep winding roads puts a natural limit to the number of cars.

We parked our car by the terminus station and entered the aerial tramway for a ride to the top. Hanging suspended in the air 700 metres above sea level felt like paragliding for someone like me who is not used to ski lifts. We stepped out in what seemed like a medieval castle occupied by almost tax-free shops selling souvenirs and arts and crafts. Along the perimeter outdoor cafes were serving coffee and ice creams with a magnificent view of the countryside, while embrasures indicate a less peaceful past.

san marino italy

Abroad within Italy

San Marino has been under attack several times since it was founded by Saint Marinus in 301, but thanks to the relative inaccessibility of the location, it has managed to maintain its independence. During the Risorgimento refugees supporting the Italian unification sought shelter in these hills, and in return Giuseppe Garibaldi granted San Marino the right not to be incorporated into the new Italian state.

In consequence, it is still possible go abroad within Italy and the experience the guards, Crossbowmen and flag-wavers that patrol the borders, walk processions and demonstrate crossbow shooting at festivals. And when you need a change of scene there’s plenty of beach life and big cities like Rimini, Cesena, Forli and Ravenna in the vicinity.

Other places you might want to see near San Marino

Five sights not to be missed in Ravenna

Why is Bologna red?

Rimini for children

Dozza – Art towns in Italy

Crossing the Rubicon

11 replies
  1. Sophie
    Sophie says:

    It’s such a quaint little country, isn’t it? All kinds of weird and wonderful museums, too. I was in San Marino 20 years ago – and again last summer. Quite liked being there overnight this time. It felt completely different with the daytrippers gone.

  2. AdriBarr
    AdriBarr says:

    Ciao Mette,

    What a neat post. When you were there did you go to La Serenissima Cake Factory for a taste of Torta Tre monti? I love the multi-layered wafer cake filled with ganache. I wrote about it at:

    Aside from being packaged in what is perhaps the coolest box ever, it is terrific tasting and perfect fro travel or picnics. I hope you brought a few home!

  3. admin
    admin says:

    Ciao Adri
    I shouldn’t miss out on a cake factory anywhere, but now I’ve pinned your recipe om my Pinterest under recipes to be tried. It looks absolutely irresistible.

  4. admin
    admin says:

    Lucky you. Rimini is a great place in my view. As long as you stay away from the seaside and Riccione. And there are lots of other interesting towns and places near by

  5. Mauro
    Mauro says:

    I quite liked the Emilia Romagna region. Having been in the countryside over there made me realise that the cities are just half of the face of Italy. Been lucky to ride the bicycle around Forli and enjoy the typical Italian scenery.


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