Mar 26, 2014

Posted by in Blog, Featured, Postcards | 13 Comments

This Is The World’s Tiniest Republic… And It’s Stunning

Did you know there’s a tiny country inside of Italy that’s NOT the Vatican?

Yeah, neither did I.

But I’m here to tell you: it’s called San Marino, and it’s gorgeous.

When I mentioned to a friend that I’d be attending TBD: Italy in Rimini, he said, “Oh, you have to go to San Marino!” I looked at him like he was from another planet, since I’d never even heard of the country.

Travel San Marino

Pin me!

I should’ve though, since this microstate nestled in the hillside of eastern Italy is a fascinating place to visit.

Fun facts about San Marino:

  • Claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, having continually existed since 301. (And no, I didn’t forget a 1 before that 3.)
  • Population: 30,000 Sammarinese
  • Size: 61 square kilometers (one-third the size of Washington, DC)
  • Member of the United Nations
  • Main sources of income are banking, manufacturing, and tourism (two million people visit each year)
  • Life expectancy is FIFTH in the world: 83.18 years of age. (The US is 46th, with a life expectancy of 79.56.)
  • Pretty freakin’ rich: GDP per capita is $55K, NO national debt, a budget surplus, and one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe (7%)
  • Income taxes are about 1/3 of the EU average
Map of Italy

San Marino makes a triangle with Florence and Bologna. See it?

So on an early morning, before catching a flight out of Bologna, I decided to make a quick visit to San Marino’s eponymously named capital city.

To get to San Marino without a car, you’ll need to catch a bus from the Rimini train station. (Easily accessible from Bologna, if you’re staying there.)

I left my hotel in Riccione and arrived at the Rimini train station with my big backpack on, searching for the lockers I’d been told were there. No such luck.

I’m not what you’d call a light packer, so I was not looking forward to carting around my bag all day. I walked around to a few local hotels, asking if I could pay to leave my backpack there for a few hours. They must get asked often, because they were less than friendly when telling me no.

Travel San Marino: view from the bus stop

View from San Marino’s bus stop.

Out of options, my backpack and I boarded the bus to San Marino. The ride took about an hour, and as we winded up through steep green hills, the views took my breath away. (It doesn’t matter what side of the bus you’re on; there are plenty of switchbacks.)

The World’s Steepest Republic?

When we got off the bus, I looked up, and… shit. The entire city was made of hills. Forget about world’s tiniest republic; it might as well be vying for world’s steepest!

Travel San Marino: walk to the towers

Sooo, this doesn’t look that steep… but really, it was!

Off I went, with the 40-pound behemoth on my back.

The historic city center is walled, with quaint cobblestone streets leading up to the three towers that overlook the city. (It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.)

Travel San Marino: entrance gate

Every few blocks, the shop-lined streets opened up into beautiful plazas overlooking the valley.

Travel San Marino: streets

Meanwhile, I looked like an elephant in a china store as I panted my way up the steep hills past adorable couples and groups of tourists. Several shopkeepers looked at me and laughed, and I almost thought about trying to leave my bag with one of them.

But I had one last hope: the tourism office. I eventually found my way to it, and asked if they’d store my bags. A big fat no. I did get a sweet passport stamp for 5 euros though!

Travel San Marino: passport stamp

My passport stamp and nip!

I continued on, and at long last, I arrived at the towers.

Where Are the Dragons?

I entered the first one, which is called Guita Rocca and is the oldest. (Built in the 13th century.) After looking inside at the ladders and stairs required to get to the top of the tower, I started searching for alternatives. Then I spotted a cannon. Perfect. I hid my backpack behind it and climbed the steep steps.

A fairy tale awaited me.

Travel San Marino: view from first tower

View from the first tower.

In all directions, I saw Italian and Sammarinese countryside, and to my right were the city walls and second tower.

Travel San Marino: stunning views

Stunning!

I wanted to let down my hair, ride a dragon, or, at the very least, pop on a corset. It felt like something out of a fantasy movie.

I let my imagination run wild for a few more minutes, took a few selfies, grabbed my pack from its hiding place, and started making my way back down the hill.

Travel San Marino: selfie

Pizza and gelato were calling my name.

On my way down, I also bought some mini souvenir bottles of Sammarinese booze, which was quite yummy.

My Time in San Marino

Visiting the towers, wandering the streets, duty-free shopping, and enjoying the views seemed to be the main activities on offer in San Marino. A half- or full-day there would probably be plenty, but it would also be interesting to spend the night and see what it’s like after the hordes of tourists leave.

Travel San Marino: biking

Psh, who needs biking when you’ve got a backpack?

Though I only had a few hours there (talk about a killer thigh workout!), I’m so glad I traveled to San Marino. To visit a country whose existence you didn’t even know about is an exhilarating experience — and to visit one so beautiful is always a treat. (Also, I just counted, and this little piece of heaven was my 40th country!)

Travel San Marino: view with tower

In other news, maybe this experience will finally teach me to be a light packer. But… probably not.

Travel tips for San Marino:

  • Buses leave from the Rimini train station several times a day (more frequently on the weekdays): here’s a bus schedule. It costs 9 euros round-trip and takes about an hour.
  • If you aren’t staying in Rimini, it’s possible as a day-trip from Bologna. Take a train from Bologna to Rimini (60-90 minutes), then hop on a bus.
  • Two of the towers are available for public visit. You can visit one for 3.50 euros, or both for 4.50.
  • It’s a steep climb through the village and up to the towers. Wear sneakers, bring water, and leave your backpack at home!

Had you heard of San Marino before? Would you like to visit? 

  1. Pizza and gelato were basically my Italy trip in a nutshell, haha. I’ll definitely have to get to San Marino one day; it looks absolutely gorgeous! Too bad you had such trouble dropping your bag off somewhere. I can only imagine what a pain that must’ve been to lug around.
    Lisa from Lulu’s Big Adventure recently posted..Itchy FeetMy Profile

  2. How crazy that none accepted your backpack!
    Thanks for the information. I had forgotten about this country. I will try keeping that in mind for next time I am in Italy.
    Claire @ ZigZag On Earth recently posted..Sunrises & Sunsets of New ZealandMy Profile

  3. I want to visit right now!!! Gorgeous photos.

    On a side note, I felt your stress about the bag through this blog post. I definitely would have been frustrated. I’m shocked that no one would allow you to pay to stow the bag for the day. That’s insane.

    Question- did the tourism office stamp your passport since you didn’t come in through an airport? Is that a thing? I’ve never heard of it.

    • Thanks, Jess! There wasn’t any passport control to get into San Marino, so there weren’t any opportunities to get my passport stamped. Some tourist offices will do this for a fee, as will some tourist attractions (ie: Machu Picchu). It’s not official, or necessary, but if you like looking at pretty stamps in your passport (like me!) then it’s a fun thing to do.

  4. First time we heard of it was during a final Jeopardy question a few months ago..beautiful photos!
    The Travel Sisters recently posted..Our Day as Panda Keepers in Chengdu, ChinaMy Profile

  5. I have not been there, but it doesn’t look like it is too hard to get to, maybe this fall! I love your photos and your backpack dilemma!
    Corinne recently posted..I’m Showing my April!My Profile

    • You’re right, Corinne — it is easy to get to, and super beautiful. Definitely stop by for a visit next time you’re in Italy!

  6. SO beautiful! Decided, this is my first stop next time I´m in Europe! These tiny nations/countries are fascinating: Monaco, Liechtenstein,.. I love the fact that San Marino sits on top of a mountain.. just as you wrote, only a dragon is missing:)Thanks for sharing, it was a real pleasure to go through the post.
    Julie K. recently posted..The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Real World Romance On ScreenMy Profile

    • Great call, Julie! I’ve never been to Liechtenstein — how is it? Glad you enjoyed the post; San Marino truly is beautiful!

  7. Common ingredients in topical acne preparations could embody:
    azelaic acid, adapalene, tretinoin, sodium sulfacetamide, clindamycin, erythromycin, salicylic acid, hydrocortisone,
    and benzoyl peroxide.

    My web page acne cream that works fast
    acne cream that works fast recently posted..acne cream that works fastMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge