San Marino: Fortress in the sky

San Marino, an independent country on the slopes of Mount Titano, is located just 23km from the Italian town of Rimini. As one of the smallest sovereign countries in the world, San Marino is completely surrounded by Italy. It was founded in the beginning of the 4th century and it’s the oldest surviving republic on Earth. With more that 9 million tourists annually visiting its capital, The City of San Marino, it is one of the must-see destinations in the region. The City of San Marino is a fortress built entirely out of stone with three towers erected on the three peaks of Mount Titano. The towers are the symbol of San Marino and are incorporated in the country’s national flag.

The Guanta Tower of San Marino

The Guaita Tower of San Marino

We arrived to San Marino from Rimini by bus. It was a 45min ride uphill to the entrance of the city fortifications. The buses go frequently from the Rimini train station with the one-way ticket price of 4.5 Euros. The itineraries can be found here. Passing through the gates of the city we joined the rivers of tourists that came here to spend a half-day enjoying shopping, history and the views. Going aimlessly through the narrow streets we weren’t in a hurry because a day excursion here is more than enough to feel all the magic of San Marino.

The steep, stone-paved alleyways that run through the fortress are filled with all kinds of shops. Since it’s a tax-free zone, San Marino is a heaven for shopping. There are also a lot of unique shops that sell almost everything, from handmade candles to some totally unnecessary crap. Even though I don’t like shopping, just the thought of going through hundreds of stores looking at things I will never ever use in my life makes the whole thing pointless, these specialized stores had some very interesting stuff. As always they are amusing for the first time. When you enter the 10th store selling Venetian masks or toy guns things get dull.

Shopping street

Shopping street

Candle shop

Candle shop

Taking toy guns to a whole new level

Taking toy guns to a whole new level

Shopping street

Shopping street

The main square of San Marino is situated around the Statue of Liberty and is appropriately called Piazza della Libertà. On the same square is the Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall. This is the place were all the festivities happen. The square can also be called a balcony because from it you can see half of Italy. Literally. No wonder San Marino is the oldest republic in the world. Who, in their right mind, would try to attack or conquer them? Anyone coming to Mount Titano can be seen from a 100 kilometers. They had days to prepare any kind of defense for the city. This is probably why they weren’t touched during all the wars that had happened around them.

The Palazzo Pubblico

Liberty Square with the Palazzo Pubblico

View from the Liberty Square

View from the Liberty Square

View of the Palazzo Publicco from above with the whole Italy in the background

View of the Palazzo Publicco from above with the whole Italy in the background

After walking around the Liberty Square we passed the Basilica di San Marino. This is the main church of the city and it’s dedicated to the founder and patron of the republic – San Marino diacono. Since it was still the beginning of the day we decided that the right course of action would be to have a cup of the perfect Italian espresso. What we didn’t expect was to drink it with a sea view. Because we were very lucky and had the perfect cloudless weather, we could see the sea from our table even though it was more than 20 kilometers away.

Basilica di San Marino

Basilica di San Marino

Drinking coffe with THIS view is just priceless

Drinking coffe with THIS view is just priceless

I saved the best of San Marino for last – The Three Towers. They are strategically placed on top of the  pinnacles of Mount Titano. The oldest, and most famous, tower Guaita was constructed in the 11th century and is located in the heart of the City of San Marino. I was briefly used as a prison. About a twenty to thirty minute walk away from Guaita is the second tower called Cesta. It was erected on the highest of all three towers in the 13th century. We haven’t seen the third tower, Montale, since it is farther away from San Marino and it’s closed to the public.

Courtyard of the tower

Courtyard of the Guaita tower

Looking at Cesta tower from   tower

Looking at Cesta tower from Guaita tower

Path from tower to Cesta tower

Path from Guaita tower to Cesta tower

Cesta tower

Cesta tower

Looking at Guaita tower from Cesta tower

Looking at Guaita tower from Cesta tower

San Marino is a wonderful place worth visiting if you are staying somewhere close or if it’s on your way. This UNESCO Heritage site is perfect for a one day excursion since everything is within walking distance. We just couldn’t get used to the mesmerising scenery that jumps right at you from around every corner. The views of the Italian landscapes are probably the best thing about San Marino, but the fortress and its architecture is also breathtaking and the many unique shops are not to be missed. San Marino is truly one of those unforgettable places.

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2 thoughts on “San Marino: Fortress in the sky

  1. This place looks amazing, thanks for posting it. My general experience of UNESCO heritage sites is that they are so busy and full of stalls that they are impossible to enjoy and photograph well but San Marino seems different. Is that the case or did you time your visit well?

    • It is pretty crowded, especially the shopping streets and restaurants. Most of the tourists are just stopping here for a couple of hours on their organized tours. Because of that, I think the morning hours are best for exploring the sights. We’ve seen all the famous landmarks between 10 am and noon and arrived at the far Cesta tower around 1 pm

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