San Marino, the 5th smallest country in the world, is located within the geography of northeast Italy, bordering the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche.
San Marino is just 10km away from the popular Italian tourist destination of Rimini. San Marino is not a member of the European Union.
It is officially known as a micro-state and is said to be the oldest republic in the world.
So why is it a country of its own if it is so small (with an area of only 61 km squared) and is surrounded by Italy?
The simple reason is that it wanted to be left alone to live in peace, away from wars and away from the conflicts and politics of other countries, hence it is known as Most Serene Republic of San Marino.
When the Italian states were going through the process of unification in the 19th century, Italy and San Marino signed a Convention of Friendship in 1862.
This remained peaceful until WW1 when Italy suspected San Marino of hiding Austria-Hungarian spies, resulting in Italy cutting off San Marino’s telephone lines.
Their flag is one of the nicest I’ve seen, with white, sky blue and their towers, with the motto in Latin as ‘Libertas’- freedom.
The official language is Italian and the currency is the euro, however they have their own national anthem, football team, Olympics team, and its own laws.
San Marino has had more female heads of state than any other country in the world, and it made the US President Abraham Lincoln an honourary citizen.
Abortion was only legalised on the 31st August 2022, and in April 2022 they elected the world’s first ever openly gay head of state.
San Marino is situated on the northeastern side of the Appenine mountains and to explore it, you have to scale Monte Titano (a UNESCO World Heritage site) to reach the capital, the City of San Marino.
Depending on ability, the climb is not too steep with comfortable steps and various benches and platforms where you can stop off for a quick pause and they have a cable car for accessibility.
We visited in the middle of August and it was a hot day, so we stopped a couple of times due to the heat making it a bit harder but a lot of the route is sheltered by a canopy of trees.
Trainers, walking shoes and sporty clothes are all advised for a visit here.
If you are driving in from Italy, you have to arrive early, no later than 11am. This is due to the fact that parking is very hard to find as many tourists visit San Marino, and many Italians go there each day for work.
We were lucky and found parking right at the base of Monte Titano.
Once we got to the City of San Marino, the medieval history and architecture is immediately seen in the stone walls, lanterns, chains and rings for horses, buildings, and viewpoints.
The view becomes more and more stunning the more you ascend.
There are the expected shops, bars, restaurants, coffee shops on the first level. I treated myself to a lovely pair of silver earrings with aquamarine stones from a jewellers called Medusa.
I noticed lots of jewellery shops, along with lots of leather, and local agricultural produce.
We stopped for an espresso and a cold drink then proceeded with the walk upwards.
We stopped on the next level up where there was a beautiful panoramic view across the hills, countryside, and the distant sea into the horizon.
One of the San Marino towers framed the view, and a couple asked Andrea to take a picture of them kissing.
It was a Sunday when we visited, which was market day.
There was a lovely, chilled vibe; more cool and modern than I had imagined, juxtaposed against all the medieval stone.
Summery music played out from speakers, and the smells of outdoor cooking from a total mix of cuisines drifted across the mountain.
We walked along to see what was there, and quickly saw that their locally-made honey is something they pride themselves on. We bought a few bars of soap made with this honey and a lady let us taste various honeys mixed with flavours such as orange blossom, jasmine, wildflowers, and thyme.
The food stalls had Mexican, Argentinian, Italian, Thai and more, and there were bars serving locally produced wine and beer. I got one of the best Pad Thais I’ve ever had (and I’ve been to Thailand; maybe it wasn’t totally loyal to how the Thais make it but still..) and a white wine and sat in the sun at a wooden table with a stunning view of the landscape.
After lunch, we walked along the main streets to the Piazza della Libertà and saw the Palazzo Pubblico, San Marino’s town hall and official government building. It looks so medieval, topped with a battlement, but this version was built in the 19th century. The guards are dressed smartly in green and red uniforms and hats. Children tried to get them to smile or talk back to them but they remained profesionally still at all times.
Nearby, is San Marino’s principal cathedral, the Basilica di San Marino, which was also rebuilt in the 1800s but resembles its original Roman style with columns.
After this, it was late afternoon and was getting very hot high up so we made our way back down (for around 20 minutes) to find the car at the base of the mountain, before driving back for an hour to Ravenna.
There is an airport 10 miles away from San Marino, serving both there and Rimini, known as the Federico Fellini International Airport. There are currently no direct flights from the UK to this airport, so the best way to fly there is into Florence or Bologna airport then get to San Marino via a coach or hire car.
I definitely recommend a visit to San Marino whilst on holiday nearby in Italy. A daytrip is enough or maximum one night if you want to stay for a late dinner.
It’s another country you can add to your list and is scenic, pretty, and quite unique in its history and politics.
Maybe the world could learn something from its stance on peace and freedom.