Perched on a peak between Le Marche and Emilia-Romagna, the Republic of San Marino is worth a visit simply because it is, at 24 square miles (61 km2), the smallest republic in the world. Its population is also tiny—just fewer than 34,000 people call San Marino home.
In addition to being the smallest republic in the world, San Marino is also the oldest sovereign state. It was founded on September 3, 301, by Saint Marinus, a Christian stonemason who had helped to rebuild the city walls of the coastal city of Rimini. Fleeing religious persecution from Diocletian, Marinus settled and established a community of Christians on Mount Titano. The country celebrates Saint Marinus and its national day each year on September 3.
What to See in San Marino
Medieval structures are abundant in the UNESCO World Heritage City of San Marino, the capital and main town of the republic.
The most recognizable of these is the Guaita, aka the First Tower, which is surrounded by a complex containing a church, a bell tower, a pentagonal donjon, and a prison. A steep, panoramic path to the peak of Mount Titano leads to the Second Tower, which served as a commanding lookout post between the mid-13th and 17th centuries.
The atmosphere around the austere tower makes the thought of heavily-armored knights very realistic, which is why it’s appropriate that San Marino’s Museum of Ancient Arms is located here. Occupying two floors, the museum has a slew of metal breastplates, spears and swords, and a wing devoted to the development of modern firearms. (Side note: There are a lot of gun shops among the tourist traps on the main streets.)
Additional fragments from San Marino’s history are on display at the Museo dello Stato di San Marino in Palazzo Pergami Belluzzi in Piazzetta del Titano. A wide array of stone tools, bronze statuettes, Roman pottery, and Ostrogothic jewelry make up the bulk of the museum’s archeological collection. Its picture gallery contains works by artists such as Guido Reni, Guercino, and Alberoni. There is also an entire room devoted to paintings depicting the patron saints of the republic, Saint Marinus and Saint Agatha.
San Marino’s Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, on Via Eugippo, has more than 750 works by emerging artists from San Marino (e.g., Marina Busignani Reffi, Walter Gasperoni, Gilberto Giovagnoli and Patrizia Taddei), Italy, and Europe.
Of course, one of the main reasons tourists come to San Marino is for the novelty of being in such a small country. You can pick up rare San Marino stamps and coins at the State Philatelic and Numismatic Agency in Piazza Garibaldi.
A visit to San Marino can take as little or as long as you like. But you can do the main sites in a few hours.
If you’d like to explore more, there is a cable car that can take you from the upper town to the valley, Meanwhile, visitors who want to take advantage of San Marino’s tax-free shopping will enjoy a detour to Falciano’s San Marino Outlet Experience.
Map of San Marino
How to Get to San Marino
The easiest way to reach San Marino is via Rimini.
By car, San Marino is approximately 18 miles southwest of Rimini on highway S72. You must follow the Adriatic coastal route A14 to reach the exit for San Marino. Otherwise, you can depend on a web of scenic country roads to get you there.
If you plan to use public transportation, a bus departs hourly from the main train station in Rimini. You can also find other bus departures from nearby cities in Emilia-Romagna and Le Marche.