On a last-minute whim, I decided to go to take a trip to San Marino from Italy. Mainly because I tend to like visiting places that are lesser known. And since most people I asked had never even heard of it or could not even point it out on a map, I sensed this was definitely one of the more off-the-beaten path destinations.
Where is San Marino?
Truthfully, I hadn’t heard of San Marino until about 6 months ago, and I thought it was just another city in Italy. Little did I know it was its own autonomous country landlocked by Italy. It lies on the east between the Emilia Romagna and Le Marche regions of Italy.
Top 5 Coolest Facts about San Marino
- San Marino is the 5th smallest country in the world and the 3rd smallest in Europe, after Monaco and the Vatican.
- San Marino spans 24 only square miles, about 1/3 the size of Washington, DC (my birthplace).
- San Marino has the oldest republic in the world.
- San Marino has no national debt.
- San Marino has the lowest unemployment rate in all of Europe.
Did you know any of these unique facts about San Marino? I sure didn’t before I visited.
Above the Clouds
I decided to stay in Rimini, since it was significantly cheaper than staying in San Marino itself. While chatting with my friendly Airbnb hosts, they informed me that it had been cloudy most days in Rimini and San Marino, and to not expect anything different in the next few days. At least they gave me a head’s up. As I left the apartment the next morning, I immediately stepped out into a cloud of fog. I couldn’t even see 20 feet in front of me, it was that bad. Oh no, this isn’t good news. I only had one day to explore San Marino, so I had no choice but to move on with my plans. Maybe it will be more clear in San Marino?
As the bus ascended up the windy mountain road to the tiny hillside country, we became more and more enveloped in clouds. It was getting worse, not better. I was extremely bummed to say the least. I’m not going to see anything, I though to myself. This is probably the only time i’m going to come to San Marino, and I’m going to miss that beautiful view I see in all the pictures. The magnificent Fortress of Guaita perched atop a glorious mountain overlooking the green rolling hills and Adriatic Sea in the deep distance. But I was going to miss all of that, sadly.
When the bus finally stopped at the top, I got off, and made my way to what looked like a lookout over the area. Holy crap!!! We were ABOVE the clouds, literally. For what it seemed like miles, white, fluffy, powdery clouds were all I could see. I had only witnessed this while in an airplane. But here I was, in San Marino, above the clouds. Wow.
Drop Everything and go to the First Tower!
Honestly, there isn’t a ton to do in San Marino. But, the one thing you must do is go to the first tower, Guaita (or Rocca), for one of the most EPIC views you will ever see. Guaranteed. It costs 4.50 Euro to enter and it was well worth it. After seeing what I saw, I would have paid more! The 3 towers are located on Mount Titano, which overlook the surrounding land.
I was afraid that it was too foggy to see anything so I even questioned paying to go up there. But I decided, why not? I came all the way here for this, I might as well take a chance. Best. Decision. Ever.
As I started exploring the little castle, I began to climb higher naturally. After the first set of stairs, there was a little lookout, where all you could see was clouds. I noticed the set of stairs to the big tower, where I presumed the best views were. I then spotted a little detour to the mini stairs, leading to a ledge. I made the little detour slowly. Another lookout with clouds, hmm. Before I went back down, I turned my head to the right, and there is was. BAM!
It was one of those “ah hah” moments that stops you in your tracks, leaving you crippled and momentarily void of expression. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t speak. It might sound a little cheesy, but it was exactly how I felt in the moment. The Rocca was not only visible, but it was mightily demanding a presence amidst the thick fog. The sun began to peak out, as if it were a spotlight highlighting the magic kingdom. It was perfect. It was ethereal. It was honestly the closest to heaven on earth I have ever seen. Pictures cannot properly convey the essence of this place.
I worried about not seeing the landscape that San Marino so famously frames, but I got something even better. I only hope that others get to see it in the same light that I did.
I originally planned on going to all 3 towers, but after the first one, I was completely content. There is no way there was a better view than that. At least that’s what I told myself. I could die a happy girl. It is moments like these that really make traveling so special, and what continues to spark my passion to see more.
How to Get to San Marino
There is a bus that leaves from Rimini train station that costs 5 Euro each way and takes 50 minutes. You pay for the ticket on the bus. The bus stop is right next to the Burger King. During the summer months, the busses leave about once every hour.
Do I need a Passport to Enter San Marino?
You do NOT need to bring your passport with you to enter San Marino. Although San Marino is not a member of the EU or in the Schengen Zone, they have free borders with the surrounding country (Italy) and operate on similar principles.
What else is Great about San Marino?
No tax!!! They have many leather shops throughout the tiny country, so make sure to spend some time shopping while you’re there. I stopped at the leather stand right outside of the first tower, and I ended up buying 3 pieces of leather for 95 Euros! I even got my mommy her Christmas present. Score!
Crazy Travelista’s Gluten Free dining Pick
Il Beccafico-had an entirely separate gluten-free menu with pastas, pizza, and desserts. I tried the homemade tortellini with ragu sauce and it was really delicious. It also had a great view of the surrounding landscape. There aren’t many restaurants in San Marino, so this may be your only option for gluten-free food.