Want to end a bragging match with fellow travelers with respect to where you have been in the world? Europe provides many opportunities for this, with micro-states like Luxembourg, Andorra, and Monaco making for passport stamps that stand out from the crowd.
Many of these places are easily accessible along many travel routes in Europe though, making it easy to tick them off travel lists though. What about San Marino? Located on 61 square kilometres of land in Northeastern Italy, no rail network or major highway system passes through its land, making it easy for stamp collectors to miss this legit yet microscopic state.
And yet, there is merit to visiting here for sightseeing, as its mountainous terrain, ancient fortresses, and regional food will make this country more than just a point of oneupmanship in travel debates held at hostel bars late at night.
It is a worthy travel destination in its own right, as it will fill the 2-3 days you spend here will be filled with worthwhile sights and experiences.
What To Do
The tiny nation of San Marino is defined by three distinctive peaks, each of which stand on top of Monte Titano. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its natural and historical qualities, this cornerstone of San Marino provides sweeping views of the entire country, hosts a variety of fortifications (that we will expound upon further in the coming paragraphs) that kept this isolated republic secure over the centuries, and contains fossils that harken back to the time eons ago when this part of the world was underwater.
As you move between the fortresses on the various peaks, keep your eyes open for a surprising variety of mammals, as deer, wild boar, and foxes (among others) are commonly found here.
The first of the peaks you should visit is Guaita, which is topped by the oldest of the three towers that vigilantly watch over San Marino and the lands the stretch beyond her boundaries. Constructed in the 11th century, it has also served as a jail over its long history, and with its tenuous perch atop its summit, the climb over this citadel’s weathered stone will make you appreciate the killer views that you will surely enjoy from this locale.
De La Fratta (also known as Cesta Tower), is even higher than Guaita, and is also well-aged, having been built in the 13th century. The big attraction here is Sammarinese Museum of Ancient Arms, which is located inside this ancient structure. Within its exhibits, view over 2,000 pieces of armor and weapons that countless generations of Sammarinese knights and soldiers used to defend the sovereignty of this micro-republic.
At this point, you may want to visit Montale, but don’t get your hopes up too high, as it has been closed off from public access at this time to protect its structural integrity from the wear and tear that would otherwise be inflicted upon it by tourists.
Head down from the mountain and into San Marino city, where the Piazza della Liberta awaits. It will prove to be a welcome break from the steep streets of the capital, as it is situated on the lower slopes of Monte Titano.
Take the time to admire the fantastically designed buildings as you sip on a cappuccino from one of the many fabulous cafes located on this compact square. The building that stands out the most is none other than Palazzo Pubblico, which is where the affairs of this tiny state are managed by its lawmakers.
Appearing castle-like in its appearance, its regal feel is only enhanced by the daily Changing Of The Guard that takes place in front of this structure, making this place one of the top draws for visitors to San Marino city.
What To Eat
Despite what its name might suggest, Pasta E Ceci is a soup containing chickpeas and noodles, and it is a popular lunch time dish that many Sammarinese enjoy on a regular basis.
When you want to enjoy an actual pasta dish that is commonly eaten here by locals, we suggest that you ask for some Nidi Di Rondine, which is an oven-baked dream consisting of noodles, smoked ham, beef, roasted rabbit and cheese, which simmers in tomato sauce that has been seasoned by fennel … yum!
When the time comes around for dessert, order a slice of Torta Tre Monti, which is a cake made with thin wafers that are glued together by either a chocolate or hazelnut creme, with the exterior being coated by a decadent chocolate fondant.
Named after the three mountains that loom over this petite kingdom like watchful sentries, this treat can both be found in restaurants, or you can buy some from local stores to take back to your hotel room for some quality time spent with one of the more indulgent desserts that you’ll find on the road.