Valletta, Malta: Winter Ain’t Coming

Valletta, Malta: Winter Ain’t Coming

 

This morning was time to say goodbye to Ann, Joseph, and Mihaela in Luxembourg:

 

 

The 6 of us remaining boarded a 10am, 1 hour flight from Luxembourg and had about an hour’s layover in Munich before catching our connecting 2 hour flight to Malta.

 

 

And from one microstate to another, Malta is only 316 square kilometers with a population of 450,000 making it one of the world’s smallest and yet the most densely populated countries. Its capital, Valletta, is also the smallest capital city in the EU by area (yes, it’s even smaller than Luxembourg City!).

Malta is also home to some of the world’s oldest free standing structures in the world and its culture has seen influence (and dominance) by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, Byzantine, Arabs, Normans, the Holy Roman Empire, the Aragonese, the Knights Hospitaller, Barbary pirates, the French, and then finally the British before Malta achieved its independence in 1964.

More pertinently to us, Malta is part of the Schengen Agreement so our flying from Munich allowed for smooth sailing to the exit where an airport taxi waited to take us into Valletta.

 

 

And once we arrived, we knew why the city of Valletta was one of the first designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The entire place is an open-air museum.

 

 

We then checked into our lodgings at La Vallette, located in the heart of the old city. Its rooftop terraces are breathtaking:

 

 

And if it was due to fate or by some ironic coincidence, right across our front door at La Vallette was a building designated for the Grand Duchy of LuxembourgDéjà vu, anyone?

 

 

After freshening up, we sauntered around town taking photos of nearly every building around the corner.

 

 

Triq Ir-Repubblika is the main pedestrian street that has all the shops and eateries, along with most of the historical buildings that you should see.

 

 

Here we stopped for a quick bite of local Maltese spreads and sausages at The Cage:

 

 

Nearly every building in Valletta is considered historic (after all the entire city is a World Heritage Site), but one of the more notable one along your walks should be Teatro Manoel, Europe’s 3rd oldest theater and the oldest continually operating theater in the Commonwealth, unchanged since its construction in 1731.

 

 

Halfway down the block is Madonna tal-Karmnu – Our Lady of Mount Carmel Carmelite Church:

 

 

One block over from the church is the square facing Parliament and the Presidential Palace, aka Palace of the Grand Master:

 

 

From there you can make a right down southwest to see the National Library:

 

 

….and most grand of all, St. John’s Co-Cathedral. It costs 10-12 euros per person to enter.

 

 

Afterwards, we headed out to the waterfront, passing by St. Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral:

 

 

Once on the waterfront, we walked a complete 360º around the city of Valletta that took only an hour to finish:

 

 

Enjoy the views along this classic Maltese walking tour, as everywhere you walk is a sight to behold of its natural harbor:

 

 

On the northern edge of the waterfront is Saint Elmo’s Fort, which fell to the Ottoman’s during the Great Siege of 1565 where all 1500 men under the Knights of St. John fought to the death defending the fort, taking 8000 Ottoman Turks with them. As Voltaire once said, “Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta,” here was the turning point of the war where the Ottoman’s pyrrhic victory caused them to eventually capitulated in their attempt to conquer Malta, ending Europe’s fear that they were invincible and leading to the rise of the Spanish dominance of the Mediterranean.

Inside the fort is a comprehensive and impressive war museum inside the Fort that chronicles Malta’s significance and strategic role in world conflicts.

 

 

And right across from the Fort entrance is the entrance to The Malta Experience, a 30 minute audio/visual film that traces the origins and history of Malta from prehistory to present day.

 You can get a 10 euro combination ticket to both the fort’s War Museum and The Malta Experience if you find yourself unsure what you could be doing here in the first place other than for some sand and sun.

Another monument you can’t miss along the waterfront walk is the Siege Bell War Memorial:

 

 

…and right next to the bell, the Lower Barrakka Gardens:

 

 

We then got away from the tourists with views from St. Barbara Bastion, where Samin’s college roommate, Yannick — who happened to graduate with Samin last week in DC at Georgetown University — met up with us after flying in from Milan (just to hang out with his college roommate again!). That’s true friendship right there.

 

 

As the two friends “caught up” on the 8 days since they’ve seen each other, we ended up at the Upper Barrakka Gardens:

 

 

And and for a moment everyone was quiet taking in the views here.

 

 

On the left is Fort Ricasoli, the filming location for Game of Thrones’ Red Keep:

 

 

And on the right is Fort Saint Angelo located in the city of Birgu:

 

 

We then headed to the open space facing St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity:

 

 

A little further down from the square will be the main bus terminal, which directly faces the Valletta City Gate:

 

 

We then headed back onto Triq Ir-Repubblika, completing our tour around the city.

 

 

Afterwards we had dinner at La Mère Restaurant, where then night fell and the city essentially becomes yours. There is nearly a nonexistent nightlife here other than quiet cafés, bars, and wine bars.

 

 

And the views of Valletta from our rooftop at night are no less surreal:

 

 

- At time of posting in Valletta, Malta, it was 20 °C - Humidity: 78% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

Keep Calm And ReLuxembourg

Keep Calm And ReLuxembourg

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After a night in Paris, Ann, Joseph and I woke up at 7am to catch the 7:40am direct train from Paris Gare De L’Est to Luxembourg.

Luxembourg boasts to be one of the world’s smallest countries covering only 2500 sq km (about the size of Rhode Island) and with a population of 500,000. Nevertheless, this country’s capital city of Luxembourg City is one of the 3 official capitals of the EU (along with Strasbourg and Brussels) and the seat of the the European Court of Justice (the highest judicial authority in the EU).

It was due to repeated invasions by its European neighbors that landlock this tiny country (Austria and France in particular), it was one of the critical mediators for the formation of the European Union, as well as being a founding member of NATO, the UN, OECD, and Benelux. With visa-free access to over 172 countries, Luxembourg’s passport is also the 6th most powerful in the world.

 

 

The train ride was quite pleasant, getting us there at 9:50am.

 

 

Checking into Grey Hotel across the street from Luxembourg’s Gare Centrale Station, Ann and Joseph met the other monsooners who had arrived the night before: Kimberly, Mihaela and Samin. Steph arrived soon after on an early morning flight.

 

 

While waiting for Alfred who would take another 2 hours to arrive, we headed to Brasserie Le Bistrot de la Place de Paris for an outdoor breakfast and coffee.

 

 

After breakfast, Alfred reached the hotel where some of the group went back to take a quick catnap while I took 4 others on a mission to find the country’s sole and only laundromat after a week shlepping in my stinky clothes.

 

 

It took us nearly an hour and half before we could find Quick Wash, and by then Hotel Grey was ready to check us in their Penthouse Suite.

 

 

By 4pm Koichi had arrived and the group was nearly complete. Off to Old Luxembourg!

 

 

When we crossed over from the southern, more modern New Luxembourg to northern Old Luxembourg on La Passerelle Bridge, it felt like we were crossing the Bridge to Terabithia into another world:

 

 

Our first stop in Old Luxembourg after the bridge was Notre Dame Cathedral:

 

 

By the Notre Dame Cathedral is the Monument Of Remembrance:

 

 

You can get views over the gorge here from Petrusskasematten:

 

 

Facing the Memorial is cobblestoned Petrusskasematten path:

 

 

From there you can head further into the city to explore. Place Guillaume II is their city center and lined with shops and outdoor cafés that remind you how too perfect of a European city Luxembourg is.

 

 

Along Rue du marché-aux-Herbes lie the Palais Grand-Ducal and Luxembourg’s well known Chocolate House facing each other side by side:

 

 

From there we headed over to the Chemin de la Corniche – Melhor Vista, aka “The Most Beautiful Balcony of Europe”:

 

 

You can see The Neumünster Abbey Cultural Exchange Center from here:

 

 

As the sun began to set, the city paradoxically began to become more alive; what was remarkable about our weekend here is that we happened to chance upon ING’s Night Marathon in Luxembourg where the whole old city shuts down and becomes a big giant street party.

And although every street corner bustled with freneticism, there were brief, fleeting moments of poignancy that made the whole experience here extremely surreal.

 

 

The group then bonded some more over a 3 hour dinner at L’Osteria, over by Place Guillaume II.

 

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And after dinner, we headed to Cité Judiciaire for night views over the Luxembourg gorge:

 

 

Right by us we noticed an elevator that would take us to the ground floor of Barrio Grunde:

 

 

Here on the Grunde, the city takes a different, more intimate vibe.

 

 

At this point, the last person in our group, with the nickname “Better Late Then Never” from The Netherlands, joined us after a detour in Trier, Germany with her partner. We welcomed her with open arms and took her back to our hotel where we continued to bond over drinks in our penthouse suite.

At this point, some of the group headed out to M Club to party, not realizing it was a 17+ club. Oops. At least they got to dance.

The next morning we woke up at around 9am to head to Luxembourg’s YHA youth hostel a few minutes north, leaving our stuff there as we headed down to the Big Beer Company neighborhood for a fine dining lunch at Le Sud Restaurant.

 

 

Our lunch prix fixe started with an Organic egg cooked at low temperature, with truffle foam and finger of bread:

 

 

The next was a Scampi salad, celery remoulade, curry oil and balsamic reduction:

 

 

The entree was a choice between Pan-fried sea bass with basquaise piperade, chorizo chips and piperade sauce:

 

 

or Confit and frayed duck thigh, potato foam, arugula salad and duck juice:

 

 

We then had a cheese tasting before finishing off with Chocolate finger with raspberry and rhubarb:

 

 

The best part after dinner was being led upstairs to their private terrace for drinks, a selection of pastries, and views over northern Luxembourg City:

 

 

After spending nearly 4 hours here soaking up the sun, we walked 7 minutes over to Casemates du Bock, where we took a 30 minute city tour on this cute little locomotive:

 

 

Basically we got the same views of the entire city that you saw above but with a guided tour of the history of each neighborhood since the founding of Luxembourg City in 963 AD.

When we returned back to Casemates du Bock, we paid a small entry fee to descend into the casemates themselves, which a series of fortified gun emplacements that protected Luxembourg City and its citizens for hundreds of years.

 

 

And with that, we saw every single sight there is to see in Luxembourg City! Our group celebrated with outdoor drinks by Place Guillaume II in perfect weather, while being treated to a free impromptu outdoor orchestral performance. Once again, another moment that reminded how too perfect of a European city Luxembourg is.

 

 

Then we had a seafood dinner at Brasserie Guillaume nearby. Despite its questionable status as a landlocked country, the seafood this place served was unquestionably top quality. We chose 2 sets of 3 group spreads for about 250 euros total which fed all 10 of us more than adequately.

 

 

Then as we lingered on until midnight, we said our goodbyes to “Better Late Than Never” who was due to return back to her home in The Netherlands while we returned to check into our hostel.

 

 

After staying up the night for some final drinks toasting to our pleasantly surprising weekend in Luxembourg, the 6 of us remaining say goodbye to Joseph, Ann, Mihaela, while we head onwards to Malta.

Currently enjoying a morning outdoor breakfast at the hostel before heading on a 20 minute cab to the airport.

 

 

- At time of posting in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, it was 29 °C - Humidity: 36% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

One Night In Paris

One Night In Paris

The Eiffel Tower finally get served

 

No, this has nothing to do with the movie (wait, what movie? You’ve been warned if you have no idea what I’m talking about), and no I’m not trying to be clickbait. This is my returning to a city I haven’t been to in over 20 years and digging up the old fading embers of my nostalgia. I’ve avoided coming back despite varied reasons ranging from multiple layovers, bouts of ephemeral romances, trip requests from other monsooners, and destination weddings. Until today.

Taking the 10:00am 80-minute Air France flight from Venice, I arrived promptly at Charles de Gaulle Airport at 12pm. My option to get into Paris was either a 40-50 euro cab/Uber ride that would take 30-40 minutes to get into the city, or the SNCF RER B Train from the airport into the city for 10 euros a person and would also take 35-40 minutes. 

I obviously chose the train.

If you’re taking the train like I did, walk over to train station that’s connected to airport (it’ll be a long 10 minute walk if you’re in terminal 2) and you can buy tickets from the kiosks. FYI it’s a total madhouse for these automated ticket kiosks as there can be multiple lines with one having 30 people and another around the corner that might have 3 people. So if you’re traveling in a group, split up to find the shortest one.

And FYI, the kiosks themselves are slow pieces of crap; it’ll take like 10 seconds to process each selections and up to a minute for a credit card transaction, which would explain for the long lines.

 

 

Even though there’s no such thing as first or second class, some cars are curiously packed while others are empty. 

 

 

I got off at Gare du Nord train station 30 minutes later and walked about 15 minutes to the eastern part of the city to check into the hotel/hostel hybrid Generator Hostel, part of the Generator Hostel franchise empire. 

Combining the quality of a 4 star hotel with the varied lodging options of a hostel, this place is over the top complete with a terrace, bar, restaurant, nightclub, café, and public meeting spaces. I wouldn’t even be surprised if it had a ballroom.

 

The hostel's views of Paris and Sacre Coer in the distance

 

However, despite all that this place has, it curiously lacks a fridge. Yes, despite its designation as a hostel/hotel, this is to ensure that no outside food are allowed and if you want to pack the food you bought at the hostel, they will refuse to put it in a fridge for you. It’s very odd.

As I mourned over too much leftover food in my room, the first 2 monsooners arrived from NYC: Ann and Joseph. Their flight on XL Airways was about 90 minutes late but eventually we were able to rendezvous and begin our day on the City Of Lights.

Our first stop was The Louvre, the world’s largest and 2nd most visited museum (after The Forbidden Palace) boasting over 38,000 pieces, one of which is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

 

 

This was Ann’s top choice to visit in her first day in Paris other than The Eiffel Tower:

 

Close enough.

 

After a few minutes here we headed to The Catacombs of Paris, the world’s largest graveyard and ossuary, housing the remains of over 6 million people since the 1700s.

There’s always lines around the block here for this so instead of paying the normal 12 euro admission, we shelled out 29 euros per person to skip the line and see it immediately. Totally worth it.

 

 

Afterwards it was off to the main event: The Eiffel Tower: The world famous wrought iron lattice tower that was originally constructed for the 1889 World’s Fair, and now serving as the timeless international symbol of Paris.

 

 

After taking a few photos here, we sauntered over to Le Poincaré for a dinner over what else: French burgers and steak, onion soup, mousse, and creme bruleé:

 

 

We then did what the French usually do and lingered some more after dinner until night fell at 10pm, where after dusk the tower is scheduled to glitter in the night for a 5-10 minute light show on the hour, every hour.

 

 

Finally to finish off the night, we headed over to glimpse the massive Arc de Triomphe, the historical French monument built in 1806 commemorating those who fought and died for France in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

 

 

Then we walked down the 2km long Champs-Élysées, the equivalent to NYC’s 5th Avenue, before deciding to save Notre Dame and Moulin Rouge for another day and heading home for an early start tomorrow morning and our next monsoon to Luxembourg!

 


So what was it really like to see Paris again 20+ years later? Best way to describe it is that everything seems much much bigger than how I last remembered it. I’ll be back again.

 

- At time of posting in Paris, France, it was 27 °C - Humidity: 39% | Wind Speed: 23km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny, HOT

 

Veni, Vidi, Venezia!

Veni, Vidi, Venezia!

 

What’s equally surprising to having done Italy but not Rome, is also doing Italy but never Venice. Even though I’ve passed through Venice Marco Polo International Airport on multiple occasions with frequent intentions to see the city within a layover’s time frame, I’ve never could accomplish the task, but was I really missing out on that much?

The short answer: a reluctant yes.

Despite warnings from fellow travelers about the city being “overrated,” “smelly,” “annoying,” or “tolerable if you see it within a day”, I’m afraid this city — among all its negative qualities — still had me under quite a spell. Yes, I must acknowledge there is a 2 to 1 ratio of foreigners to locals here, and that nearly everyone you’ll encounter will be another tourist who can probably speak your language. But there is something about not seeing a single car for days, or the evocative way the canals and the streets sound at night when they’re empty of tourists, can make even the most jaded of travelers begrudgingly admit to Venice’s uniqueness and understand why everyone around the world feels compelled to visit at least once before they die.

Anyways, you can’t judge a place without first experiencing it!

If you’re coming from the airport, you can take an 8 euro Airport Bus to one of the main watertaxi terminals (more on that later) which then will take you into the city, or take the Alialaguna Airport Watertaxi directly from the airport to the city center for 15 euros.

If you’re coming from Bologna, take the 85 minute train to Venice where you can step out from the train station to see the mouth of the Grand Canal in all its beautiful glory.

 

 

Wherever you arrive, one of your first decisions is whether you need tickets/passes for the public watertaxis (aka vaporettos). If you’re a big fan of public transportation, don’t mind waiting in crowds, and plan to explore up and down Venice’s larger waterways at some point, get the unlimited 3 day pass for 30-40 euros. Note that using the watertaxis at least 4-5 times within that timeframe will make up its worth as its ride costs about 7 euros.

If not, try your luck with haggling down a private water taxi instead. Or walk, as the main old city itself takes about 10-20min to walk from end to end.

If anything, do NOT follow Google Maps’ suggested directions for watertaxis; they get a lot of the stations wrong and will end up making you walk more than you need to. Just follow the watertaxi map and use common sense.

 

 

It’ll take about 20-30 minutes on a watertaxi to reach San Marco, the main city center of old Venice. Once you get off, you have finally set foot in the world’s only true pedestrian city: there is no car in sight and there never will be. The city is yours for the taking. Walk to your heart’s content!

 

 

With 35,000+ Starpoints that you can get instantly by signing up for SPG’s Amex credit card, you can snag free nights at Venice’s premier top 5-star hotel at The Gritti Palace

The hostel is a historical sight in of itself, as the Doge of Venice, Andrea Gritti, commissioned its construction in 1475. It was renovated only 4 years ago, perfectly blending historical opulence with modern extravagance.

It may not seem as much on the outside…

 

 

But wait ’til you see whats on the inside:

 

 

After settling in, walk on over to the city’s central square, Piazza San Marcao, aka The Piazza.

 

 

You’ll know it when you see it.

 

 

Directly facing you will be the western facade of St. Mark’s Basilica, aka the Church of Gold and a fine example of Italo-Byzantine architecture.

 

 

Entering the Basilica is free, although lines can take up to 5 hours to get inside (and it’s small enough that most people spend only 10 minutes there). If you want to skip the line, you can go online and buy “skip-the-line” tickets at pre-reserved time windows for 2 euros per person. 

Bags are not allowed, so you’ll have to check them in around the corner (they’ll direct you where) at a cloakroom; it’s free to check them in up to 1 hour.

Although you’re not allowed to take photos inside Basilica San Marco, they’re not that strict with enforcing that rule:

 

 

Once you exit the Basilica on its northern side, you’ll be facing the Torre dell’Orologio, a Renaissance tower built in 1499:

 

 

A few meters in front of the Basilica is the Campanile, a newly restored cathedral tower from the 16th century.

 

 

You can take its elevator for 8 euros (no climbing any steps!) and get these views over Venice:

 

 

To the south of the Basilica and coasting the waters lies Doge’s Palace, which arguably is Venice’s main landmark. Built in Venetian-Gothic style, it  was the residence of the Doge of Venice, once the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice. It costs 20 euros to enter (and extra if you want the secret tour).

 

 

Be prepared for exquisitely ornate rooms that only could come out of a fairytale:

 

 

More interestingly in the lower levels are an elaborate network of prisons, one of which held the infamous Casanova.

 

 

If you’re visiting on an odd-numbered year you should take Watertaxi #1 a few stops east from San Marco to Giardini, an area of parkland built by Napoleon Bonaparte that now is recognized as the headquarters for a worldwide and yearlong arts exhibition that occurs every 2 years: La Biennale di VeneziaWithin the park and arts showcase are a series of permanent pavilions, each hosting a country and its representative artist for that year’s Biennale.

Tickets cost 30 euros (15 euros if you have a student ID or are under 26):

 

 

The Biennale this year also hosts “open tables” where you can chat face to face with one of the artists around a large public roundtable over food.

 

 

Even the café is an eye-opener:

 

 

Have fun going from country to country! You can easily spend a whole day here.

 

Hungary
United States
"Medusa" by USA's Mark Bradford
Russia
Japan

 

From Giardini you can either take Watertaxi #1 a few stop west towards San Marco to Arsenale for more Biennale exhibits, or keep going to Rialto for Venice’s iconic bridge and its classic views over the Grand Canal:

 

 

On the western part of the bridge is the Rialto Market if you have a craving for fresh produce.

 

 

After Rialto, take watertaxi #2 west to S. Marcuola – Casino and walk about 5-6 minutes north to the Campo del Ghetto. A serene square to briefly collect your senses, this historic center is also known as the “Venetian Ghetto” where Jews were first compelled to live during the Venetian Republic.

Up to 1500 people had lived here, although most of them fled prior to the arrival of the Nazis during World War 2. Of the 250 or so who remained and then forcibly sent to concentration camps, only 8 returned.

 

 

Nevertheless, nearly 500 people now live in Campo del Ghetto, which remains a center of Jewish life in Venice.

 

 

At this point you should done with most of the major sights! Celebrate by hopping on Watertaxi #1 for a journey through the Grand Canal.

 

 

Once night falls and stores begin to close, you can explore the city some further:

 

The view from Academia Bridge is particularly nice (although Rialto’s Bridge has higher views):

 

Turn in with a riverside midnight snack back at your hotel:

 

 

And finally, before finishing with Venice, we must address the quintessential Venetian Gondola ride. Costing a whopping nearly non-negotiable 100 euros for a 35 minute ride (I say nearly non-negotiable because if you somehow get them to agree to anything less, you’re going to miss out on all of the secret canals they can take you to), a gondola ride could still be an experience you may regret not doing. Perhaps a way around this is to rally a group to split the 100 euros, as a gondola can fit up to 6 people.

Yes, I admit to paying a ton for this, but I definitely don’t regret it: there is something very different when you explore Venice from the level of a gondola while gliding through its lesser-known canals. 

 

 

If you get a good gondolier, he (no women gondoliers are allowed yet in this male-dominated tradition) will lead you down some of better lesser-known canals while pointing out some of the top sights that can be seen in the 35 minutes that you have together.

 

 

Like, did you know Mozart had lived here, like, across the street?

 

 

Anyways, this is a 6am morning at The Gritti:

 

 

Necessary, because we needed to be out the door at 6:50am to catch the 7:01am Alialguna watertaxi to the airport. It runs every half an hour.

 

 

Say goodbye to Venice:

 

 

The watertaxi takes about an hour and 20 minutes before arriving at the airport:

 

 

Now currently enjoying some pastries and coffee at the Casa Alitalia lounge in the airport (thanks Delta status!) before the next flight to Paris.

 

 

 

- At time of posting in Venice, Italy, it was 19 °C - Humidity: 62% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: cleaar

 

Bolognese In Bologna

Bolognese In Bologna

Sorry, too busy eating right now to post about Bologna properly (after all, that’s what it’s known for anyway!). Instead, go read my entry on how to do a day trip from here to San Marino.

 

 

Until then, still eating.

 

- At time of posting in Bologna, Italy, it was 22 °C - Humidity: 52% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

From Vatican City & Rome To San Marino

From Vatican City & Rome To San Marino

The world's oldest republic, San Marino, just got served

 

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.

 

Don't judge me

 

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