Did you know that you can be on the Italian peninsula yet not be IN Italy? Actually, there are 2 places in which to have this experience. One is the Holy See City (Vatican City) and the other is the Republic of San Marino. San Marino is said to be the world’s oldest republic and Europe’s third smallest state (after the Vatican and Monaco). It’s located within the North-Central region of Italy at the border between Emilia Romagna and Marche. The historic center of San Marino is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is less than 15 miles from the beautiful town of Rimini on the Adriatic Coast.
Why to go: Part of the tourist draw to this area is the unique experience just to be in this little independent country within the borders of Italy. Once there, you’ll see that the city basically sits on top of a mountain with breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea and the Po river valley.
When to go: The “shoulder” season of April-June and September-October is usually a pleasant time to be in this region – nice weather and fewer tourists than during the summer. San Marino is still a stunning place to visit during the winter but, logistically, can be a challenge because of the combination of steep, winding roads and snow/ice. If you enjoy local cultural events, you should consider visiting in July when there are three different area festivals –Adriatic Music Festival, Medieval Days Festival and San Marino Jazz Festival.
How to go: While San Marino is not a member of the European Union, it does have an open border with Italy so travelling in and out of the country is not difficult. Car is probably the easiest way to get to there and once inside the walled city, it’s easy (but hilly) to visit on foot. If you’re arriving by plane or train, note that the closest airport or train station is in Rimini. Despite the fact that San Marino is not part of the EU, they have an arrangement that allows them to use the Euro. As a piece of trivia, all Euro coins have the same design on one side but the image on the opposite side of the coin could vary by country. San Marino Euros do have their own image and, as a result, are considered valuable to coin collectors.
What to do: One of the highlights here is getting a stamp in your passport, which is not done upon entering the country. In order to receive a stamp in your passport, go to the tourist information center and pay 5 euros for the souvenir. Another local souvenir to seek out is the Euro coin with San Marino image on one side, as mentioned above. These are relatively rare to find as change for purchases. The easiest way to leave with one of these coins is by purchasing them in a souvenir shop. There are also a few main sites to see in town – a medieval castle and its three towers. The towers were built on the top of the tallest mountain in the country – Monte Titano. Built between the 11th-14th centuries, two of the three (Guaita and Cresta) towers can be visited.
Where to make a detour: When you’re this close (15 miles) from a coastline, it just makes sense to make a detour for a visit. From San Marino, Rimini is the biggest and closest town on the Adriatic Coast. It’s a very popular beach resort town with lots of nightclubs and activity. And, because of its size and proximity to San Marino it’s a great place to find accommodations in the area.