San Marino, officially named "The Most Serene Republic of San Marino," is a must-see destination for history enthusiasts. But history is not the only thing to be seen here. San Marino’s history comes with stunning and picturesque panoramas, all 360 degrees around the imposing Monte Titano, where the historic city lies.
Even though San Marino lies in Italy, it is not part of Italy. It is an enclave and one of the world’s smallest and oldest republics. If you’re in popular Italian cities like Rimini, Bologna, and Florence, don't forget to take a day to visit this beautiful sovereign state. Here’s how you can get the most out of your day trip to San Marino.
Since 2008, San Marino’s old town has proudly displayed its UNESCO world heritage status to the world. Most buildings still conserve their original architecture, old fortification towers still stand and cobblestone streets weave organically between natural formations and ancient structures.
Pass through the historic Porta San Francesco, the gate that leads into the old town, and allow yourself to get lost in its maze of steep streets and alleys fanning out in all directions. Also be sure to enjoy the main square, Piazza della Liberta, where you'll also find the House of Parliament.
The Parliament building is full of excellent insights that show the country’s history and unique political system. There you’ll learn how San Marino maintained its independence through the centuries, the base of its diplomacy, the many alliances formed with surrounding states and more. One of the interesting alliances to be seen there is the one made with the United States during the American Civil War, in which President Abraham Lincoln was made an Honorary Citizen of San Marino.
There are three distinctive towers in San Marino. These 11th-century towers are the pride and joy of the country, and they’re even represented on San Marino’s flag. La Rocca o Guaita, or Main Tower, is the oldest of the three towers that crown the three peaks of Monte Titano. This is one of San Marino’s top attractions and it is a treat to walk along the walls and inside the tower.
At the moment, only two of the towers are accessible to visitors, and each has an entry fee of about three euros. Make an effort to climb to these towers, as the panoramic views from them are second to none, reaching all the way to the Adriatic Sea!
Since San Marino has no border control with Italy or any Schengen country in Europe, you won’t get a passport stamp when you visit it. But, if you want proof of your visit to one of the smallest sovereign states in the world, you can head to the post office and ask for a San Marino stamp in your passport. The fee for this stamp is five Euros, but worth it for the bragging rights!
Like its name implies, the "Most Serene Republic of San Marino" feels like a tiny oasis in the middle of so much unspoiled land, rolling hills, fortresses, wineries and local farms. Walk around and don’t forget to look out of the city, past the towers and across the landscape. Even better, sit down, grab a gelato or a snack and soak in all that nature. On a clear day, you can even see the beaches in the Riviera Romagnola!
Despite its tiny size, San Marino boasts hundreds of chic shops, boutiques, malls and outlets with a broad range of electronics and clothing. Shopping is popular in San Marino because purchases are tax-free!
San Marino boasts a wide variety of museums that go from traditional paintings to quirkier and unique collections. Some of the best ones are the State Museum with its large collection of archeological objects, coins and paintings; the San Francesco Museum with is 16th century paintings; the Museum of Ancient Arms; the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art; the Ferrari and Abarth Museum; the Wax Museum; and the Museum of Curious Objects, among others.
As an independent state, San Marino has its own military. In fact, it is one of the smallest in the world. The fascinating tradition of the changing of the guard is kept from April to September, and it is performed every half hour from 8 am to 6 pm at the Palazzo Pubblico.
Dogana is the most populated settlement in the Republic and the main entry point for travelers arriving into San Marino from Italy (through freeway 72 from Rimini). Even though the biggest attraction in Dogana is its shopping malls, take some time to walk around and see a traditional town in San Marino, which is skipped by 99.9% of tourists who visit the Republic. Although Dogana means "customs house" in Italian, there are no border formalities, but you can see the demarcation of the border between Italy and San Marino.
Have you been to San Marino before? What do you think should be added?
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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