San Marino: The Land of the Clifftop Castles

Being obsessed with geography means you’ll know cities and places that other people haven’t quite heard of. Like for example the five gorgeous microstates of Europe. A microstate is exactly as its name suggests; a small nation with a small population.

Sure everybody has heard of arguably two of the most famous microstates in Europe – the Vatican City and Monaco. But fewer people have heard and visited the other three European microstates, in order of size; San Marino, Liechtenstein and Andorra.

Perhaps fans of the Eurovision Song Contest will be most familiar with San Marino. The microstate that keeps trying; the home of Valentina Monetta. But San Marino is a beautiful place in its own right and the City of San Marino quickly entered my Top 15 favourite Cities I’ve visited list.

San Marino’s popularity is quickly growing and its steady increase of tourist numbers year by year are evidence of that. In 2017, when I visited, it was the least visited European nation. And I really don’t understand why…

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TRAVEL DETAILS

When: July 2017

How: There are no airports in San Marino. The nearest airports are Rimini and Bologna, both in Italy. I flew into Bologna in a disastrous 2 day KLM Airlines ordeal that has made me never want to fly that airline again.
But back on topic.
Once in Bologna I caught the train to Rimini and then the Bonelli Bus 72 to San Marino. The bus departs right in front of the train station and has regular hourly departures in summer. The cost is 10 Euros one way, or 15 return, but I do recommend spending an overnight in San Marino. Now San Marino is the country but it is also the name of the capital city so just stay on the bus until the end and you will be in the heart of the city.
Also important to note, San Marino is not a part of the European Union but they do have open borders with Italy and use the euro as their currency

Accommodation: Hotel Titano. Located right in the historic city walls of San Marino City.

Some facts

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino was founded in 301AD and claims to be the world’s oldest republic. It managed to keep its independence during the unification of the Italian peninsula.

At just over 61 square kilometres, it is the fifth smallest nation in the world. It’s capital city is the City of San Marino and is the main attraction of the nation. The nation of San Marino is entirely enclosed by Italy while the Adriatic Sea is just 10kms away.

Dominating the landscape of San Marino is an oddly shaped mountain with not one, but three peaks; the appropriately named Monte Titano (Mount Titan). At 749m above sea level the entire city is built upon this mountain meaning everywhere you look you have stunning views.

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I remember when Monte Titano first came into my view and the massive ordeal of KLM Airlines debacle just melted away. It is an impressive sight and dominates the surrounding landscapes of the Italian Apennine Mountains.

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As the bus approaches San Marino, the mighty Monte Titano rises high above the surrounding landscapes.

The Three Towers of San Marino

Built high on the majestic mountains are the famous three towers of San Marino. In fact, they each feature on the country’s flag. All three towers were used as prisons and to help defend this small republic. You can buy a ticket that gets you into the first two towers, but not the third because there appear to be no entrance…?

Guaita Tower

A view of Guaita Tower… and a snippet of the amazing view on offer.

The Guaita Tower has a courtyard you can stroll through and you can climb the actual tower through some lovely narrow steps.

The Guaita Tower also has a small weaponry museum where you can learn about the history of San Marino and how the towers contributed to the nations 1700 years of continued and uninterrupted independence.

The outside courtyard is open after hours and is a perfect spot to watch the sunset.

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This is also a great spot to see the sun rise over the Adriatic Sea. I had photos of this, but… unfortunately an event happened later on in my trip and I lost those photos. An excuse to go back.

Cesta Tower

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Located on the highest of the three peak of Monte Titano.

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The three towers are connected by a scenic pathway. After the second one, the pathway enters more bush like territory. When I was there no other tourists kept following the path to reach the third tower because you can’t actually access it. Meaning a nice little spot all to yourself.

Montale Tower

The smallest tower that is located on the smallest peak of the mountain. Can’t enter this one because it doesn’t have an entrance!

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But it does provide some more absolutely superb scenic viewpoints.

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What else?

Apart from the three towers what else is there to see? Well the entire historic centre is a photographers dream. Architecture combined with scenery, old style charm combined with surprising modernity.

Wondering through the winding uphill streets of San Marino you will find everything, grocery stores, souvenir stores, a knife store, cafes, restaurants and bars everything you need. And around every corner (literally ever corner a new lookout point).

The City also has a cable car that links the mountain top city with the suburb below, Borgo Maggiore. While there is nothing to see in the suburbs except residential areas it is still a fun ride. If you’re feeling adventurous you can hike back up the mountain… but for me… pass.

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Sunset

This is the reason you should not just do a day trip to San Marino from Bologna and Rimini. Just look at this. Climb back up to the one of the three castles, choose a spot, take a photo and then watch and embrace nature for all its glory.

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A number of restaurants line the city streets. I went to two different ones, one serving me a very healthy dose of rum and coke, but both offering stunning vistas.

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Restaurant number one’s view. The immediate proximity is still the nation of San Marino but passed that Italy and then the Adriatic Coast.

A funny story with my second restaurant. I saw there was an empty table with an amazing view so I asked if I, a solo traveller not wanting to cause too much trouble could sit there. The waitress said of course and removed a “reserved” sign.
Maybe I should have said not to worry but then I thought why not take this opportunity? Then the man who had reserved the table came in mid-meal, they sat him somewhere else, albeit with an inferior view, but he was still content.
It. Was. Worth. It….

I do recommend the Sammarinese red wine.

Accommodation:

There are a few hotels within the city walls, a few outside the walls. I stayed at Hotel Titano. A gorgeous three star hotel right in the middle of the historic centre. I was given a huge room with a very much needed air conditioner, greeted by friendly reception staff every time I entered and a delicious buffet breakfast. But probably the best part is its proximity to the attractions so that when you’re out exploring and you need to use the bathroom you can just wonder down to your own hotel room.

San Marino is increasing in popularity with a steady increase in tourist numbers. It is not hard to see why.

Have you visited San Marino? Or are you wanting to visit now? Let me know your thoughts below.

You can also follow me on instagram for more travel photos and stories @my100by40.

3 thoughts on “San Marino: The Land of the Clifftop Castles

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