San Marino might be the smallest Republic in the world at 62 sq k but it punches well above its weight where ridiculously spectacular views are concerned. I took a day trip from Bologna to see what surprises the third smallest state in Europe had in store. I wasn’t disappointed and, be warned, the camera went into overdrive!
From Bologna I took the train to Rimini and from there the bus to San Marino. The bus climbed higher and higher as the road twisted upwards – Mount Titano towers 739 metres above sea level and my ears actually popped on the way up. I knew for sure I’d arrived in a new country when my mobile pinged a ‘Welcome to San Marino’ text – cool!
We arrived at the coach park and as I climbed off the bus I turned and caught a glimpse of the first of the day’s views – the sun was shining, it was a clear day and miles and miles of lush green Emilia Romagna countryside stretched ahead before rolling into the distant Apennines. Just gorgeous!
Mount Titano is a balcony of rock offering a panoramic view of the Upper Marecchia Valley and Montefeltro across to the Romagna coastline and the Adriatic which I soaked up as I walked the boundary of the city.
San Marino Stamp of Approval
First stop was the tourist office where I got a brand new and very pretty ‘San Marino’ stamp in my passport and a new country chalked up on the list. San Marino is big on postage stamps and claims to have one of the the best postal systems in the world so drop into the Post Office if you’re a collector and take home some stamps and a San Marino Euro coin – both collectors’ items.
San Marino Old Town
Onwards and upwards I climbed through San Marino’s criss-crossing steep streets to the old town centre on the top of Mount Titano, a full 750m above sea level. It’s closed to traffic and contained within medieval stone walls. The old town is full of welcoming cafes, street artists and boutiques selling handbags, clothes, ceramics and, surprisingly, firearms and knives. Banks are plentiful – San Marino is one of the wealthiest countries per head with a population of just 30,000. Many goods are tax-free so the shopping attracts tourists on the hunt for bargains. The prices for food and drink were reasonable and lunch was a tasty ham and cheese piadina (flatbread) with a beer for €4.50.
The Guaita Tower
The high point of my visit were the fortresses of San Marino; turreted, castellated, fairytale towers reaching skywards into the bluest of skies and linked by a winding path that runs the entire ridge of the mountain. The towers were built to protect the small state from Emilia Romagna’s Malatesta family and the first and oldest tower, Guaita, is surrounded by two circles of city walls one of which can be walked. The tower was originally a watchtower and housed prisoners right up until the 1970s.
The pathway connecting the towers “Passo delle streghe” means Passage of the Witches – more than appropriate in this fairytale scene but sinister in that it’s where those accused of being witches were hanged. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see winged monkeys in little blue waistcoats swooping down on me Wizard of Oz style from the castle atop the craggy rock had the day been dark and overcast. But it wasn’t and the blue skies were the perfect backdrop.
The Cesta Tower
The pathway is the one of the best places to photograph both the first and second towers and has some of the most gorgeous countryside views. But the view from the top of Cesta back to Guaita is the one that totally took my breath away. It’s possible to climb right into the roof of this tower although you’ll need to negotiate a steep step-ladder and a small trap-hatch but the views back to Guaita Tower from the lookout windows are worth the effort. Stunning. The Armoury Museum containing weaponry and armour is housed in the Cesta Tower.
I became so entranced by the views that I totally lost track of the time and had to dash back to the bus park missing a stop at the Houses of Parliament, Palazzo Pubblico and the third, smallest, tower. I’d love to have had more time to spend in San Marino the tiny state with the big, big views and if I return I’ll definitely stay for sunset which I’m told is spectacular. Can you even begin to imagine?
How to get there: Trains don’t go to San Marino so the easiest way to visit is to take the Bonelli bus from Rimini’s train station. The ride takes about 50 minutes and costs €4 each way. Get your ticket opposite the railway station just to the right of Burger King. You can do this as a day trip from Bologna, as the train from Bologna to Rimini takes 60-90 minutes and costs €10-20 depending on the speed – allow yourself at least 4 hours in San Marino itself.
How much: Combined entry to Guaita and Cesta Towers is €4.50
For more information check out the Visit San Marino website.
The apartment in Bologna was provided by the Emilia-Romagna Tourism Board as part of the #BlogVille campaign created by iAmbassador. As always views and opinions – good, bad or otherwise – are entirely my own.