San Marino is a picturesque destination a couple hours south of Venice, and a great addition to any Italy itinerary. Read below for our advice on what to do in San Marino!
Entirely surrounded by the country of Italy, San Marino is not a town, but is a separate country. It happens to be the oldest sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, having started out in the year 301.
When you visit San Marino, it’s not that obvious you’re entering another country. You won’t need to show your passport; the currency is the Euro, just like in the rest of Italy; and people speak Italian (though there is a Sammarinese dialect).
But look a little more closely.
Unique Things to see and do in San Marino
- Notice the postage stamps and collectors coins
- Notice the unique license plates
- Keep your eye out for the country’s flag
- Visit the castles to get a sense of the country’s long history and you’ll realize you’re visiting a place with a deep legacy.
What to do in San Marino: main sights
- Walk up to the hilltop castles on the three peaks of Mount Titano, to soak up the history and fabulous views. The photo above is of the first tower, called Rocca or Guaita.
- Watch the brief changing of the guard in Piazza della Libertà
- Visit the Torture Museum
- Explore the small streets of the historic center
- Taste the chocolatey “three towers” cake
- Find locally-made cheese
- Drink the local wines: the red Sangiovese or the white Biancale.
You don’t need a lot of time to see the main town of San Marino: a day is plenty, but consider staying overnight. San Marino can be overrun with tourists, including Italian school groups (I first visited the country on a 5-day class trip when I was in high school, or Liceo Classico, in Milan). We love the centrally located 3-star Hotel La Grotta.
Getting to San Marino
If you have a rental car, park at the bottom and take the lift up to the historic center.
If you are arriving by train, take the train to the nearby town of Rimini, and then get a taxi from there.
San Marino Fun Facts
- The population of this little country is just 30,000
- The country covers 61 square kilometers, but we recommend staying in the historic center and NOT having a car
- The country receives over 3 million visitors a year
- It’s therefore not surprising that 50% of the country’s GDP is from tourism. Hence our recommendation to stay overnight and explore the place when the tour buses have left for the day.
- The San Marino Grand Prix is not actually in San Marino, but is in the town of Imola, 100 km away.
- The reason San Marino did not become part of Italy with the unification in 1871 is because San Marino had given refuge to people persecuted for their support of the unification. When San Marino asked to not be included into the Italian state, Garibaldi obliged.
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