The world is made of countries of all sizes. Some are considered microstates, not to be confused with micronations, which are small independent nations that are not recognised by world governments. Microstates consist of a very small population but are recognised as a sovereign state by the rest of the world. San Marino is the fifth smallest country in the world and is surrounded on all sides by Italy.
This trip was to celebrate my one-year anniversary with my boyfriend Jonathan. He is more of a go on a holiday to relax type of guy, so it was super sweet of him to be happy with the idea of heading to San Marino for this special occasion. He is also happy (occasionally with an eye roll or two) to take the lovely candid shots you see of me looking out into the distance. This would be one of many trips of an aussie and a brit abroad!
Being so small, this means there is no direct way to fly to San Marino, making the journey to get there slightly longer. After a flight, bus ride, train ride and finally another bus ride Jon and I arrived at the tiny enclave. It roughly took us four hours from London to the City of San Marino, so for those who think they can fly in and out within the same day, make a weekend of it instead.
Being a microstate, there isn’t a great deal to do in San Marino. However, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It is very Italian inspired (just don’t call them Italian or they may take offence), and the capital city is perched on top of a hill known as Mount Titano. The views from here are magnificent, overlooking the hilly San Marino and Italian countryside.
We arrived late on Friday evening, so decided to go for a quick walk through the streets of the city before heading to dinner. In most cities you’ll find tourist shops that sell trinkets and souvenirs for tourists to spend money on and then collect dust on a shelf back home (not having a go at anyone here, I am guilty of doing this myself!). San Marino is no different in the amount of souvenir shops they have on every corner of the city’s streets however, some of them contain quite shocking items. Guns. From the display cabinets on the street to the back shelves, San Marino is the first place in the world where I have seen shop after shop filled with guns! A thin piece of glass is what protects some of these assault rifles, handguns and sharp blades from people passing by on the street.
This shocked and alarmed me as you’d assume there would be a gun problem with more guns than people in San Marino. However, after doing some research, a lot of the weapons in the display cabinets are fakes, and within the shop they will not sell a gun to anyone without a licence (Phew). However, tourists usually come to San Marino by the busload daily, what is to stop someone taking one out of the country? San Marino doesn’t seem to have any gun crime or crime in general, its more of a concern for those that could be smuggled out of the country.
Back to the perks of the country, San Marino has three towers that rise over the city on Mount Titano. The Guaita, Cesta and the Montale Towers are symbolised everywhere across the city and they can even be found on the national flag. Jon and I spent the morning trekking between the towers to see different scenic views of the city and countryside. The first two towers, Guaita and Cesta, are open to the public to wonder through and learn a little bit more about San Marino’s history. The third tower is unfortunately closed off.
After we had reached the three peaks and taken as many photos of the view as possible (this fact is false, as I love to take thousands of pictures from all different angles, even including some with me being candid in them) we went back down to the Piazza Della Libertà where a vintage car gathering was occurring. I had seen a few throughout the day, however, I was curious at how mad one must be for wanting to drive the streets of San Marino. They were so narrow with tourists and locals filling them up from side to side, not to mention twists and turns on a steep incline almost every meter. These vintage cars looked like they dated back to the early and mid 1900s (don’t come for my car info when you see the photos, my knowledge of cars is very limited) so they certainly were not small and manoeuvrable vehicles designed for these streets. After taking photos of and in front of the cars for social media, we went and saw the rest of the city, including the Palazzo Pubblico (Government building), Basilica di San Marino – Pieve, Museo di Stato and the various parks and gardens found on Mount Titano. These were spectacular to look at, architecturally they were beautiful with such detail going into every aspect of the buildings from the windows to the archways. The style is very similar to that found across Italy; these sites really have been preserved well and still serve as their intended functions today.
One more fun thing (for me it was fun, maybe not to normal people) I had to tick off my list was getting a passport stamp. With San Marino being in the EU and no border controls with Italy, it meant there is no opportunity to obtain a passport stamp when entering. There was a tiny tourist office right by Monumento a Bartolomeo Borghesi which offered to stamp your passport for €5. For a lot of travellers this is a souvenir of the countries they have visited. Certainly worth the €5 for those that like the memento.
There are several other attractions found in San Marino such as a Museum of Vampires and a wax museum, however these kinds of attractions appeal to me less when I travel, as they can be found across the globe and are usually set up for tourists to throw money at. If you have spare time, if you simply love Twilight, or if it’s pouring down and you are not a fan of getting wet, then go nuts.
San Marino is certainly one of those countries where you do not need to take any annual leave to go and visit. Even with the longer journey time to and from the city of San Marino on Mount Titano, it certainly can be done over a weekend. If you are a fan of tours, there certainly are many that set off from other major cities within the region. I personally do not enjoy this kind of travel within Europe, as I like to spend a night even for these short trips to break up the travel and not rush myself. A weekend away, or a long weekend, is ample time to go and visit the Republic of San Marino, whether you stay within the country itself or in neighbouring towns in Italy.