The city of San Marino is the capital of San Marino. San Marino is known for its historic center and beautifully preserved medieval architecture.
While the city is small, it is a hub of activity in the country, hosting numerous cultural events yearly. Tourists flock to the capital to experience its rich history, stroll through its charming streets, and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Despite its size, the City of San Marino offers a blend of historical interest, cultural richness, and natural beauty that is truly unique.
Where is San Marino?
The City of San Marino, the capital of the Republic of San Marino, is located in Southern Europe. It’s entirely landlocked and surrounded by the Italian Peninsula. Specifically, it’s situated in the northeastern part of the Apennine Mountains.
The city is perched atop Mount Titano, the highest point in the country. This unique positioning allows for stunning panoramic views over the Italian countryside from the city. Despite its small size, San Marino is an independent nation with its laws, government, municipalities, and economy.
History of San Marino
San Marino, both the city and the nation, has a rich and storied history that dates back to its founding in 301 AD. It’s said to be the world’s oldest extant sovereign state and constitutional republic. The city and the nation share the same name, reflecting their intertwined histories.
San Marino was founded by Saint Marinus, a stonecutter from the Roman island of Rab, who fled religious persecution. According to legend, Marinus established a monastic community atop Mount Titano, the city’s current location. Over time, the community grew into the City of San Marino and eventually the Republic of San Marino.
Throughout the centuries, San Marino has maintained its independence despite being surrounded by Italy. It survived the many tumultuous periods of European history, including the Napoleonic Wars, the unification of Italy, and both World Wars.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon respected San Marino’s neutrality. During the unification of Italy in the 19th century, San Marino served as a refuge for many persecuted people because they supported unification. The new Italian state r espected the nation’s independence.
In World War II, despite the surrounding conflict, San Marino remained neutral and served as a haven for more than 100,000 civilians who sought refuge from the bombing.
These historical events have left their mark on the city’s architecture and culture. The three fortresses, or “Torri,” that stand atop the city’s Mount Titano are potent symbols of San Marino’s resilience and independence.
Today, the city’s medieval character, as reflected in its narrow winding streets, old buildings, and fortified walls, serves as a living testament to its rich history.
Features of San Marino
The city of San Marino boasts many notable features that make it a remarkable destination.
Geography and Climate
The City of San Marino is located in the heart of the country, on the slopes of Mount Titano, a part of the Apennine mountain range. Italy enclaves the city and the country. Thus, the geography of the area is dominated by hilly terrain. The highest point in the country is the peak of Monte Titano, which is 749 meters above sea level.
San Marino has a Mediterranean climate, with warm to hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Summers typically have average high temperatures in the 80s °F (around 30 °C), while winter temperatures usually range from 30 °F to 50 °F (-1 °C to 10 °C). Because of its elevation, the city often experiences slightly cooler temperatures compared to the lower-lying areas.
The population of the city of San Marino is approximately 4,000 people, making it a small but vibrant community. The people of San Marino are predominantly Sammarinese, though there is a significant number of Italian residents as well. The official language is Italian, and most of the population is Roman Catholic.
Despite its small size, San Marino has a diverse economy. Key industries in the city and the country include banking, electronics, and ceramics. Tourism is also a significant part of the economy, with people visiting from around the world to see the historic sites, including the medieval fortifications and towers, and to enjoy the stunning views from Mount Titano.
San Marino also mints its coins and stamps, which are popular with collectors and contribute to the economy. The small nation has a high standard of living and is considered one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita.
The service sector dominates San Marino’s economy, followed by the industry sector, which includes construction, industrial manufacturing, and communications. The agricultural sector is small, owing to the hilly terrain and limited arable land.
The economy of San Marino remains stable. However, its robust financial sector and a commitment to fiscal responsibility have allowed it to weather economic challenges.
Things to Do and Places to See in San Marino
Even though San Marino is a compact nation, spanning just 61.2 square kilometers, it presents an abundance of activities and sights in its capital city. Here’s a glimpse into some of the top sites and attractions that the city of San Marino has in store for its visitors:
1. The Three Towers of San Marino
The Three Towers feature prominently on the flag and the coat of arms of San Marino. They are significant tourist attractions and provide stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the Adriatic Sea. The Mount Titano area and the historic center of San Marino are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
I. Guaita Tower
Guaita Tower, the First Tower, is the oldest of the Three Towers of San Marino. It was constructed in the 11th century and has served as a central defensive structure for the microstate. Guaita is perched atop Guaita Rock, one of the three peaks of Mount Titano, the mountain that overlooks the city of San Marino.
The Guaita Tower has undergone several restorations, particularly in the 15th, 16th, and 20th centuries. Despite these changes, the structure has retained much of its historical charm and authenticity.
II. Cesta Tower
The Cesta Tower, also known as the Second Tower, stands on the highest of Mount Titano’s summits, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.
One of the most compelling features of Cesta Tower today is the Museum of Ancient Arms located within. This museum houses an extensive collection of weaponry, providing a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of arms from the Middle Ages through the modern day.
The Tower is one of San Marino’s primary tourist attractions and is easily recognizable due to its distinctive location and architectural style. From Cesta Tower, visitors can take in panoramic views of San Marino and beyond, making it a memorable stop for anyone visiting this tiny republic.
III. Montale Tower
The Montale Tower, known as the Third Tower, is the smallest and most recent of the Three Towers of San Marino, built in the 14th century. Unlike its counterparts, the Guaita and Cesta towers, Montale stands on the minor peak of Mount Titano.
Despite its relative smallness, Montale has a significant historical value. It served an essential defensive purpose when constructed, providing an additional fortification for San Marino. The design of Montale is typical of medieval fortifications, with a heavy use of stone and a sturdy, tower-like structure.
3. Basilica di San Marino
The Basilica di San Marino, also known as Saint Marinus, is a significant religious and architectural monument in the Republic of San Marino. Located in the heart of San Marino, the basilica is dedicated to Saint Marinus, the founder and patron saint of the Republic.
The Basilica was built on the foundations of a much older church dating back to the 7th century. The older church had also been dedicated to Saint Marinus but was in a dilapidated state by the time the decision was made to build the new basilica.
The basilica has a striking facade featuring a series of Corinthian columns supporting a pediment. Visitors will find a large nave with two side aisles supported by sixteen Corinthian columns. The grand altar contains Saint Marinus relics, attracting tourists and pilgrims.
4. Piazza della Libertà
Piazza della Libertà, or Liberty Square, is one of the most iconic and visited places in the Republic of San Marino. Located in the heart of San Marino, it is known for its stunning views, remarkable monuments, and its role as the center of the city’s public life.
One of the main features of Piazza della Libertà is the Palazzo Pubblico or Public Palace. This is the town hall of the city of San Marino as well as its official Government Building. The neo-Gothic style building is used for political purposes and ceremonial events.
Adjacent to the Palazzo Pubblico is the Statue of Liberty, another key square feature. This statue symbolizes freedom and independence, representing the values upon which the Republic of San Marino was founded.
5. Peak of Monte Titan
Mount Titano, or Monte Titano, in Italian sands at approximately 739 meters (or about 2,425 feet) above sea level; it is the highest point in San Marino and provides a stunning panorama of the surrounding landscapes.
Visitors to Mount Titano can enjoy walking trails that traverse the mountain, offering varying degrees of difficulty suitable for casual and experienced hikers. As you walk, you’ll enjoy a landscape rich with vegetation, particularly on the lower slopes, while the upper sections feature more rugged, rocky terrain.
7. State Museum (Museo di Stato)
The State Museum, or Museo di Stato, is one of the key cultural attractions in the Republic of San Marino. It’s located within the Palazzo Pergami-Belluzzi in the city of San Marino and is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history and culture of this microstate.
The museum was established in the late 19th century. It houses various artifacts that span different periods of San Marino’s history and archaeological finds from the Neolithic period to the Middle Ages.
The collections are divided into several sections: Archaeology, Numismatics, and Medieval Modern and Contemporary History. The Archaeology section exhibits artifacts from the local region, while the Numismatics section contains a wide range of coins and medals, including a complete collection of San Marino’s coins.
10. Cava dei Balestrieri
The Cava dei Balestrieri, or Quarry of the Crossbowmen, is a specialized shooting range located in the historical heart of the city of San Marino. It is used for crossbow shooting, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages that is still upheld in San Marino today.
The area is within a large, old stone quarry, hence the name. The natural enclosure of the quarry provides a perfect backdrop for this sport, and it’s here where the Crossbowmen’s Federation of San Marino, a group dedicated to preserving this medieval tradition, holds its practices and competitions.
The crossbowmen, or Balestrieri, dress in medieval costumes during their performances, adding to the historical ambiance of the event. These exhibitions, combined with the unique and historic nature of the quarry, create a captivating spectacle for both locals and visitors.
11. Gate of Saint Francis
The gate, which marks the entrance to the city’s historic heart, is situated near the Church and Convent of Saint Francis, from which it gets its name.
This gate is part of the ancient walls that once protected the city. Walking through this gate is like stepping back in time as it leads you into the narrow, winding streets of the medieval city, where historical buildings, monuments, and shops abound.
The Gate of Saint Francis, like other elements of San Marino’s historical city center, contributes to the charm and character of this unique, centuries-old republic. Visiting it offers a tangible connection to the city’s past, giving a sense of the history and tradition that shapes San Marino’s identity today.
Next to the gate, you will find the Church of Saint Francis, built in the 14th century, which is home to several noteworthy works of art and a beautiful cloister. This is another stop visitors often make when visiting this area of the city.
14. The Pass of Witches (Passo delle Streghe)
The Pass of Witches, also known as Passo delle Streghe, is a scenic location in the region of Serravalle in San Marino. This panoramic viewpoint is located near the peak of Mount Titano, the highest point in San Marino.
According to local legends and folklore, this spot is named “Passo delle Streghe” due to stories about witches gathering in this area. It’s a place shrouded in mystery and charm, drawing many tourists and visitors intrigued by its legends and want to enjoy its breathtaking views.
15. San Marino Cable Car
The San Marino Cable Car, or “Funivia di San Marino” in Italian, is a popular transportation method and tourist attraction in the Republic of San Marino. The cable car offers a quick and convenient way to travel from the city of Borgo Maggiore up to the historic city center of San Marino City, which is situated on top of Mount Titano.
The journey takes a few minutes, and the cable car cabins depart every 15 minutes. The cable car operates every day, though it may be subject to changes due to weather conditions or maintenance.
One of the main attractions of using the cable car is its stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the Adriatic Sea in the distance. Upon reaching San Marino City, visitors are within a short walk of major attractions like the Three Towers of San Marino, the Basilica di San Marino, and the Palazzo Pubblico.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is San Marino safe to visit?
Absolutely. San Marino ranks as one of the safest destinations globally for travelers.
Is San Marino a country or a city?
San Marino is both a city and a country. The Republic of San Marino is a sovereign microstate, while the City of San Marino is its capital.
Can I use the euro in San Marino?
Even though San Marino is not a member of the European Union, it uses the euro as its official currency.
Do I need a visa to visit San Marino?
San Marino needs to issue its visas. It is typically accessed by crossing the open border from Italy, so whatever visa requirements apply for Italy would apply to entering San Marino.
What is the cuisine like in San Marino?
San Marino’s cuisine is similar to Italian cuisine, particularly that of the Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions. Notable dishes include:
• Piada (flatbread)
• Variety of different pasta and pastries
• Bustrengo (a fruit and nut cake).
Is San Marino part of the EU?
No, San Marino is not a member of the European Union. However, it has a monetary agreement with the EU allowing it to use the euro as its currency.
San Marino’s rich history, stunning views, and vibrant culture certainly make for a worthwhile destination. As the world’s oldest republic, it offers a unique glimpse into the past, while its location atop Mount Titano provides breathtaking panoramas of the Italian countryside. The city’s medieval architecture, iconic towers, and charming streets add to its allure.
Additionally, with its thriving economy and high standard of living, visitors can expect various high-quality services and amenities. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, nature lover, or simply someone who enjoys exploring new places, San Marino is a captivating destination that offers something for everyone. So yes, San Marino is worth a visit. It’s not just a trip to a new place but a journey through history, culture, and unique experiences.