San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world - it ranks fifth on this list, just behind the Vatican, Monaco, Nauru and Tuvalu. And although Poles associate this tiny enclave on Italian territory primarily with the national soccer team, San Marino has much more to offer than sports excitement. The country brings together, as if through a lens, all the contrasts characteristic of the Apennine Peninsula. Here you will find sandy beaches, hills covered with lush vegetation, the clear waters of the Adriatic Sea and historic architecture, one of the most beautiful in this part of Europe. How to plan a trip to San Marino and what is worth knowing about the country before setting out?
Where is San Marino located?
The country is located in the northeastern part of the Apennine Peninsula, over Adriatic Sea and borders Italy at a line of 39 km. Although San Marino works closely with the European Union and its official currency is the euro, it is not a member of that community, nor is it in the Schengen area. In theory, therefore, one must use a passport or ID card to enter the country. In practice, however, you can only enter the country through Italy, and there is no document control at the border. Tourists therefore do not feel that they are leaving the EU. Nevertheless, when planning a stay of more than 10 days, it is necessary to report it to the local gendarmerie. This procedure is generally mediated by the accommodation facilities used by tourists, so it does not pose any problems for visitors.
What is the climate like in San Marino?
San Marino is an area with a Mediterranean climate. Summers here are characterized by high temperatures, rainfall during the summer season is rare. The most favorable weather for tourists is in San Marino from May to early September. The warmest months are July and August - then the average temperature is 29 degrees. These are also the months with the lowest rainfall. September, although warm (the average temperature is 24 degrees), is the month in which it rains far more often. Statistically, January is the coldest - the average temperature in this month is only 9 degrees with 35 mm of precipitation. The rainiest month is November, with an average monthly rainfall of 48 mm then.
Interesting facts about San Marino
For such a small country, San Marino boasts many special features. A few of the most interesting are listed below:
- San Marino is the oldest republic in the world and, unlike other micro-states in Europe, has never had a king
- The country's capital is San Marino, with a population of just over 4,000. The city is picturesquely situated on the slopes of the country's highest peak, Monte Titano
- San Marino is not the largest city in the micro-state. The most populous town is Serravalle with a population of more than 10,000
- The country has two official languages - the primary language here is Italian. Most residents also converse in the San Marino dialect and it is widely spoken in everyday situations. San Marino lives off tourism, so you can also communicate with the vast majority of staff in restaurants, hotels or stalls in English
- The enclave on Italian territory is the least visited country in Europe - in 2017 San Marino was visited by only 60,000 foreign tourists
- Nevertheless, as much as 50% of the country's GDP is generated just by tourism
- In the first half of the 20th century, San Marino had a rail link with the Rimini. Unfortunately, the railroad line was destroyed during World War II and was never rebuilt
- San Marino has its own embassy in the US, and Abraham Lincoln is an honorary citizen of the micro-state
- For collectors of stamps in the passport, a real treat is a stamp from a stay in San Marino - but you have to pay for such a pleasure, and the price is about €5.
- San Marino's national soccer team consists overwhelmingly of amateur players. With the exception of a few professional players, San Marino's soccer players work in completely different industries on a daily basis. Two of them are employed at a furniture factory, and the captain works as a marketing specialist
Getting to San Marino
The easiest way to get to San Marino is to enter directly from Italy. The enclave has a convenient connection to Rimini, so if you are traveling by car, you can enter the country directly from the popular Italian resort. The distance between San Marino and Rimini is only 20 km., this road can be covered in about half an hour.
The most convenient way to get to San Marino for those traveling by air is a flight to Bologna, from where you can continue by rail. However, this is not a direct trip. San Marino does not have a railroad station, so the trip is made with a transfer, and part of the route from Rimini to the destination must be taken by bus.
To start your journey by rail, you first need to get from Bologna's Marconi Airport to the city center, from where trains leave for Rimini. From Rimini, in turn, we can get to San Marino On board the bus. This route is operated by the carrier Bonelli Bus. The summer schedule lists 8 trips on this route (information current as of January 30, 2022). Travel time by bus from Rimini to San Marino is one hour, and the cost of a ticket is €5.
Total travel time from Bologna to San Marino should not exceed 4.5h, and in the case of rush-hour courses it can even be shortened to less than 3h. There is a total route of about 150 km to cover. Daily on the route Bologna-Rimini There are an average of a dozen or so runs, although of course, in times of coronavirus epidemics, this can change quite dynamically. The average cost of a train ticket on this route ranges from €8 to just over €11.
San Marino itself is best navigated on foot. Most of the major attractions are located in such close proximity that a well-organized tourist is able to explore the capital in just one day. To get a better feel for the place and blend in with the local atmosphere, we recommend, of course, a longer stay in the country and visiting the neighboring towns.
Attractions in San Marino. What to see and visit?
For a country with such a small area, San Marino has a surprisingly large number of attractions, including interesting monuments. It is worth noting that the historic center of San Marino's capital has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Also on the same list is the summit Monte Titano, on which there are 3 impressive fortresses, the most famous of which -. La Rocca o Guaita - is by far the most recognizable site associated with San Marino. The fortress and its adjacent grounds are featured on numerous postcards and materials promoting the country.
The structure was erected in the 11th century, and owes its shape to a major reconstruction in the 16th century. Interestingly, despite the numerous historical turmoil it has been a silent witness to, the fortress has never been conquered. The observation deck located on its tower is the highest vantage point in the country open to tourists. From it one can also see the other two towers located on the Monte Titano – La Cesta and Il Montale.
Il Montale Tower is unfortunately not open to tourists. It is worth mentioning that it is said to have been of the greatest strategic importance in the past, as it is the one that offers a 360-degree panorama of the entire valley. This is interesting, as the fortress is located a bit off to the side and, from the outside, does not look like one that may have played such a key role in the city's history. Most tourists pay most attention to the first tower (Prima Torre). Visiting the highest of the towers on the Monte Titano is an amazing experience, but it requires good fitness (there are numerous narrow stairs leading to the top) and is definitely suitable for people who do not have a fear of heights. The final step separating visitors from the beautiful view at the top of the tower is more like a ladder than a staircase, and the ascent to the vantage point is through a narrow opening.
The mountain itself Monte Titano is the highest point in the state of San Marino - the summit is 739 meters above sea level and offers impressive views of the city skyline and surrounding areas. Entrance to the mountain is free, the way from the center of San Marino to the walls of the old city takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on your condition. However, there is an entrance fee to the fortress. Open to the public are 2 of the 3 towers located on the Monte Titano, and the total cost of admission to both is €6. It is worth reserving 3 to 5h to visit the summit and the fortresses themselves.
Among the attractions of San Marino are certainly you can count the cable car. The lower station of the railroad is located in the village of Borgo Maggiore, and the top one in the historic center of San Marino. The length of the route traversed by the cable car is 338 meters, and the journey takes only 2 minutes, but it provides an amazing panoramic view of the entire area, including a view of more than 200 km of the Adriatic coast. The cost of a cable car ticket for 1 person one way is €2.80, two ways €4.50. The cable car runs every 15 minutes, and during the high season, between July and September, it is open from 7:50 in the morning until 1:00 at night. The ride for children under 120 cm tall is free. The train trip is a great way to add variety to a trip to Monte Titano, especially for the less fit or for families with young children.
Another architectural curiosity open to the public is the Palazzo Pubblico, which is the city hall and also the seat of government. It is one of San Marino's more recognizable tourist attractions - the image of the building is immortalized on the €2 coin. The City Hall was built in the 9th century, and underwent renovations over the late 20th century. Government Palace Palazzo Pubblico stands in the immediate vicinity of Piazza della Liberta (Freedom Square), whose focal point is, donated to the city by the Germans in the 19th century, Statue of Liberty. The square is home to the city's most important ceremonies and events. You may accidentally bump into San Marino's most important officials, including heads of state, at the venue.
Other attractions in San Marino
W San Marino In addition, there are 2 14th-century churches (St. Francis Church and St. Peter's Church) and St. Mary's Basilica from the 19th century. The aforementioned basilica was built on the site of an old church from the 7th century. The basilica owes its patronage to the city's founder, St. Marin (Marinus), after whom the country took its name. The remains of San Marino's legendary founder rest in a reliquary on the basilica grounds.
In addition to sacred and defensive sites, it is worth noting the San Marino's museums, the most famous of which is philatelic and numismatic museum. Importantly, it is possible to buy a collective ticket, entitling you to visit both the four San Marino museums, the two towers on Monte Titano, and the city hall. This ticket is not much more expensive than the one that entitles you to enter the towers alone - it costs just €8.
Shopping in San Marino
As with any foreign trip, it is also worth bringing back local souvenirs for loved ones from San Marino. Among the most popular souvenirs purchased by tourists in this micro-state, one should mention first of all local liquors - especially liqueurs and wines (both red and white). In addition to alcohol, be tempted to buy local handicrafts - hand-painted fabrics, as well as regional wooden and ceramic products. Of the finer souvenirs, local postcards and stamps are particularly noteworthy.
The most important information from the point of view of a foreign tourist is the following. San Marino is a free zone. For this reason, souvenirs will be bought at much better prices than in other countries in the region. The most profitable are purchases of luxury goods, such as perfumes, watches, leather goods and clothes and accessories for outfits. One of the hottest places on the map for shopping enthusiasts is Azzurro Shopping Center, located on the highway to Rimini.
Duty-free shopping can be done not only in the mall, but in the numerous boutiques in the city. In San Marino, many high-end brands have stores or stands where you can buy original products at prices much lower than in other countries in this part of Europe.