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San Marino is one of two independent countries located within the geographical border of Italy – The Holy See (aka The Vatican) is the other country.
If you are country counting and happen to be in the mid-Italy region, then visiting San Marino is one to tick off your list.
GETTING TO SAN MARINO
The easiest way to reach San Marino is via Rimini on the Italian Adriatic coast. Rimini is a transport hub and is easily reached from surrounding cities and regions. Two direct buses serve the Rimini to San Marino route: 160 public bus and the Bonelli Bus Rimini San Marino shuttle.
Both buses have stops outside Rimini railway station and at the Arch of Augustus (Arco d’Augusto). I recommend using the Bonelli service as it runs according to the timetable and is clear as to where it picks up and drops off. The journey is approximately 50 minutes. The 160 bus is cheaper but the schedule is a little more confusing.
The City of San Marino is located on Mount Titano which is over 700m in height. Therefore, the drive to the city centre involves meandering up lots of Apennine hills with hairpin bends. Parking in the city centre is at a premium.
CITY OF SAN MARINO
The towns located in rural San Marino were built in the last few decades and the architecture is nothing spectacular in comparison to what you’ll have left behind in Italy. Skip these towns and head directly to the City of San Marino.
Located on top of Mount Titano, the City of San Marino is both a quaint place to meander around and has spectacular views of the nearing region in Italy. Its cobbled streets are UNESCO-listed and the architecture dates back hundreds of years.
At the top of the mountain are the castles Castello della Cesta and Castello della Guaita. On the way up to the castles, one will pass a plethora of cafes, restaurants and museums, all presided over by friendly and helpful locals.
Two notable places to visit are the Basilica of Saint Marinus, and the Public Palace (Palazzo Pubblico) on Piazza della Liberta. Saint Marinus was a Croatian Christian who fled to the hills to avoid religious persecution during the 4th century. San Marino grew out of the community that Marinus built.
Today, San Marino is the world’s oldest republic and is governed from the Public Palace.
However, I suspect San Marino’s popularity with day trippers has less to do with country counting and more to do with its reduced prices on alcohol, cigarettes and perfumes. Also, San Marino does a roaring trade in leather goods and firearms.
TIPS FOR VISITING SAN MARINO
Should you wish to stay overnight, check out booking.com for a selection of accommodation options.
Bring comfortable walking shoes as the inclined cobbled streets are taxing on the leg muscles.
The unit of currency in San Marino is the Euro.
The official language of San Marino is Italian. The local cuisine will also follow Italian conventions although try some of the local specialities such as the alcohol-soaked sponge below.
San Marino is a predominantly Catholic country so the public holidays and festivals are based on the Christian calendar (e.g. Easter, Christmas)