Welcome to San Marino
WRITER BIBI LYNCH GOES TO SAN MARINO FOR ROAD, RAIL AND SEA.
San Marino is out of this world. Almost.
Not just because of its position on the planet - situated on Mount Titano, 739 metres above sea level - and the resultant Godly views of Italy, the Adriatic Coast and the other Apennine Mountains, but because of the look and feel of this tiny sovereign state (the third smallest in Europe after Monaco and the Vatican).
With winding roads up Titano (fortress walls encasing the route from mid-mountain); Medieval forts; dramatic statues; a neo-Gothic Public Palace; a Vampire Museum; stone, chiseled street signs and mazes of magical cobbled streets too small for cars, the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, the oldest republic in the world, is so beautiful it’s almost unreal. Like a film or TV set. Like an Italian (real Italian) Portmeirion.
And it’s a film set from the past — forever, happily, proudly, trapped by its majestic walls and its as glorious history. Named after Saint Marino, a stone mason who came to Titano in 301 A.D. and founded a small safe-haven community for Christians who were being persecuted, San Marino continued to welcome people who sought shelter and protection: from Italian general Garibaldi who fled there in 1849, to over 100,000 refugees who escaped to the state during the Second World War.
Indeed, when the Republic of San Marino was added to UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage List in 2008, it was for its breathtaking beauty but also because it is ‘a testimony of the continuance of a free republic since the Middle Ages’.
Yes, of course the 21st Century is trying to nudge in - San Marino is a popular destination for tax-free shopping (outlet stores sell electronic and leather goods, while the old stone buildings twinkle with watches, jewellery and perfumes) and there’s a Michelin-starred restaurant - but, like the gorgeously brave San Marino football team who lost 13-0 to Germany (don’t mention the score), it doesn’t stand a chance.
The joy of San Marino is that she takes you away from reality. Back to a gentler, more tranquil way of life. Watching the sunset from Piazza della Libertà, in the centre of San Marino’s ‘snapshot in time’ Old Town, you feel you are removed from the hubbub of 2014. And yet, under an hour - but a whole world - away is another San Marino…
Cantina di Bacco
Righi la Taverna
Bar Piadineria la Capanna
Hotel La Grotta
Each day at 2.30 in the summer you can see the traditional changing of the guard. They wear spectacular uniforms with gold epaulettes and ostrich feathers.
It's slightly cheaper if you buy tickets for both towers (Guaita & Cesta) that are open, rather than individually.
San Marino enjoys mostly good weather so, in summer, don't wrap up or you'll overheat. However, it does sometimes get a sprinkling of snow in the winter months.
It can get very crowded in the summer months so it's best to go out of season and have the streets to yourself.
The old town is small and compact so it's easy to see in a day if you're coming from Rimini.
Order a Torti Di Monti, a local desert of wafers, hazelnut cream and chocolate.
If you want to avoid the crowds gathered waiting to catch the cable car then the best walking option is to go up the stone Costa Dell'Arnella footpath. It's a more gentle incline, shaded and will take about 20 minutes to reach the city.
The language is Italian and the currency Euros. Look out for the Euros with the San Marino design on the back, as they have their own mint.
HOW TO GET TO SAN MARINO
HOW TO GET TO SAN MARINO BY ROAD
San Marino is 10km inland from the Adriatic Sea. To drive there take the A14 Expressway Bologna–Ancona and exit at Rimini Sud. Then drive along the Rimini-San Marino Highway.
HOW TO GET TO SAN MARINO BY RAIL
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS ON TRAVELLING TO SAN MARINO BY TRAIN.
Once you've arrived at Rimini take the Benedettinni / Bonelli bus to San Marino. The stop, clearly marked, is opposite the station. It costs €9 return and tickets can either be bought at the bus stop- there's a ticket booth nearby- or at tourist information.
It can get crowded so it's best to get to the stop early. This page on the Rimini Tourist information site has up to date timetables in English. The journey takes about 45 minutes.
The old walled city of San Marino is virtually traffic free and is easy to walk around. There's a funicular cable car linking the the old city to Borgo Maggiore below. Car parks are scattered around the the outside of the city.
Car parks are scattered around the the outside of the city and they are numbered, IE P5, P6. There are three car parks near Borgo Maggiore (P11, P12 and P13), where the funicular cable car leaves from up to the city. It's quite a steep walk up to the city if you park at the bottom of the hill. P5, P6 and P7 are closer to the old town. Prices up to €8 for 24hrs.
The funicular cable car connects the town of Borgo Maggiore. The service is free for the disabled, and there are 3 reserved car park spaces nearby. There are also two seats on the cable car for disabled passengers. The journey takes just a couple of minutes and costs €4.50 return