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San Marino: Small, Historic and Underrated

By Patrick Szabo


Whether it’s history, sightseeing or adventure that brings you to Italy, the Most Serene Republic of San Marino is a must-see stop on your itinerary.

San Marino is entirely encapsulated within Italy and is the third smallest state in Europe—behind Vatican City and Monaco—being only 61 sq. kilometers (23.5 sq. miles) in area.

Founded in A.D. 301 by a master stonecutter named Marino who wanted to establish a small community of Christians after being persecuted by Emperor Diocletian, it also claims to be the world’s oldest republic.

It is located only 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the Adriatic Sea, and uses Italian as its official language.

Getting into San Marino is simple. If you’re visiting Italy with a visa, you may enter. There’s no need for a currency exchange upon arriving, either, as the Euro is what the Sammarinese people use.

It’s easily accessible, too. The capital city of San Marino is located only 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) from Federico Fellino International Airport in Rimini, Italy.

The country is comprised of nine small towns called Castelli. With plenty of sights to see and things to do in each, a trip to San Marino could easily occupy more than a day.

The most popular attractions are in the San Marino Castello. If you’re on the prowl for historical sights, visit the famous three towers atop Mount Titano.

The oldest of the towers is Guiatia, which dates back to the 11th century. The second tower, Cesta, was built at the beginning of the 13th century and hosts the Museum of Ancient Weapons. The third tower, Montale, was completed at the beginning of the 14th century for defensive purposes.

All three towers are linked by a path that runs along the entire ridge of the mountain.

The original city center of the City of San Marino is enclosed by medieval stone walls and is closed to traffic. It’s here that visitors can see the Palazzo Pubblico, which is the official government building for the country and is known as “the heart of San Marino.”

Visitors can tour the inside of the building and see the centuries-old water cisterns that once contained water reserves for the citizens of San Marino. Completed in 1478, these tanks were built to offset the country’s lack of major freshwater sources.

If you’re looking for the arts, visit the gallery attached to the 14th century Church of San Francesco or see a show at the Teatro Titano - a fine example of a late 18th century balcony theater.

Of course, San Marino isn’t known merely for its architecture and place in world history. What about a more modern attraction?

The Maranello Rosso Ferrari Museum in the Serravalle Castello is worth the visit, as it showcases Ferrari’s evolution with 25 models of cars from throughout the decades. After taking a tour here, this stop should ultimately lead its visitors to a place etched in the history of world auto racing—the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrarri in Imola, Italy.

It’s not in San Marino, though. This famous racetrack actually lies 74 kilometers (46 miles) northwest of the republic. Even so, this racetrack is connected to San Marino by a quarter century of racing history.

From 1981 to 2006, the Formula One San Marino Grand Prix was held in Imola and was named as such because Italy already had its own grand prix. This track is perhaps most notorious for its 1994 San Marino Gran Prix, in which three-time Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna lost his life only a day after the rookie driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed during qualifying.

So you’ve seen enough sights for the day and are ready to relax and explore the culinary culture of San Marino.

There are more than 60 restaurants throughout the country, giving you yet another reason to stay a bit longer. Traditional foods include fagioli con le cotiche, a dark bean soup flavored with garlic or rosemary, and nidi di roundine, baked pasta filled with smoked ham, beef, cheese and tomato sauce. Find some of these dishes at Cantina di Bacco, located in the original city center. Affordable and romantic, this restaurant serves Italian food with the Sammarinese influence. Though, with more than 60 restaurants to choose from, this may be one of the more difficult decisions you will make during your visit.

If you have more of a sweet tooth, try seeking out one of San Marino’s traditional desserts like Torta Tre Monti, which is a layered wafer cake covered in chocolate that symbolizes Mount Titano and its three towers, hence its name.

Pairing your food with San Marino wine is a must. With a beautiful, hilly landscape ideally suited for cultivating vines, San Marino boasts 300 acres of vineyards. The Consorzio Vini Tipici di San Marino, which imports grapes from Italy's world renowned growing regions, is the sole wine producer in the country

Here, you can find many different varieties of wine. If you want white wine, try Roncale, a fruity wine made with ribolla di San Marino grapes.  Roncale pairs well with cold summer dishes and fish. If red wine is more your forte, taste Tessano, a dry riserva made with sangiovese grapes. It pairs well with red meat dishes. Home



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