From one microstate to another, today we’ll go from one of the world’s famous to one of the least known, both of which happen to be located within arm’s reach within Italy.
The microstate of San Marino is a vestige of Italy’s former independent city-states, retaining its claim as the world’s oldest republic. Half as large as Liechtenstein (which we went to earlier this year!), San Marino covers a mere 61 square kilometres with a population of 33,000, and yet is one of the world’s wealthiest countries in terms of GDP (per capita). It also happens to be the only country in the world with more vehicles than people.
To get to San Marino from Rome, start by taking a direct train from Rome’s Termini Station to Bologna Centrale:
The ride takes about 2 hours so enjoy the views in the meantime:
Once you arrive into Bologna Centrale, change platforms and take another 1.5 hour train ride to Rimini.
Once you arrive at Rimini, head outside:
There will be a bus station immediately on your left. That’s actually the wrong one to get tickets from; instead, they’ll direct you to cross the street to find a random tourist souvenir shop where you can purchase your 5 euro bus tickets.
We were only able to find it because of the green sign posted outside.
If you’re exiting the store, 20 meters to your left is the bus stop for San Marino:
Beat the crowds of tourists to get a good seat:
After about another 50 minute bus ride up the hills of San Marino, they’ll drop you off at the P1 Parking Lot:
If you feel like climbing up endless more steps and hills to get to the top of San Marino, go for it. But if you’re on a limited time or have bad knees, you can take a 2 euro tourist-friendly choo-choo train instead.
After about 10 minutes on the train, you’re finally at the very top of San Marino.
Well, here you are. Welcome to the oldest (and one of the smallest) republics in the world:
There are not many “sights” in San Marino per se, but you can make a quick hike up to each of the 3 peaks of San Marino upon which are 3 main towers built.
The first tower, Guaita, was formerly a prison and is San Marino’s most famous and most visited.
Admission is 4.50 euros. It can be worth it for the epic views:
From Guaita is a few minutes walk to Cesta, the 2nd tower:
Built on the remains on an older Roman Fort, Cesta also costs 4.50 euros to enter.
There’s also a 3rd tower, Montale, that’s not open to the public. Also a former prison, its only “entrance” is a door 7 meters above the ground, which was customary for prisons at the time.
It’s to you if you want to hike there.
Afterwards you can circle back around from Cesta to head back to where the choo-choo train dropped you off. From there you can either redo your exploration of San Marino’s peaks, or head down further to explore other sights, such as the Basilica of San Marino:
A short walk past the Basilica on a lower level lies the Tourist Information Office where for 5 euros you can get a San Marino passport stamp. Nowhere else on Earth can you get such a thing, if that’s a big deal to you.
It was for me.
You can hike down even further to the Public Palace:
And from here you can spend the rest of your time either checking any of San Marino’s plethora of museums (ranging from a Torture Museum, a museum of arms, to a Vampire Museum), dine outside, savor a gelato, or do some last minute San Marino shopping.
Once you’re ready to go, you can head out back through the main gates on a lower level, where the bus station to take you back to Rimini will be to your right, about another level down.
Once you’re back in Rimini, feel free to stay there for its famous beaches or make your return on a train back to Bologna.
- At time of posting in San Marino, it was 16 °C - Humidity: 74% | Wind Speed: 3km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear